MFA to discuss measures allowing referees to halt matches in cases of racism

The Malta Football Association Executive Board will on Tuesday discuss guidelines allowing referees to halt, and if necessary, abandon matches when there are cases of racist behaviour on the pitch and in the stands

The Malta Football Association Executive Board will be discussing guidelines allowing referees to halt, and if necessary, abandon matches in instances of racist behaviour inside stadiums.

The proposed regulations are in line with UEFA approved official guidelines to help match officials handle incidents of racism inside stadiums.

On Sunday, Floriana FC condemned and distanced itself from the racist abuse by one of its supporters against Santa Lucia goalkeeper Julani Archibald.

In a strongly worded statement on its Facebook page, the club said it will offer no protection to this “unacceptable” behaviour. Floriana said the person purchased online tickets to enter the Floriana stands.

In light of the incident, social worker and equality activist Omar Rababah called on the MFA to adopt a set of measures to fight racism in the sport, with the introduction of new powers and harsh penalties for those found guilty.

On the racism incident, the MFA said that it is assisting the police in their investigations to identify the alleged perpetrators.  

“The disciplinary process in relation to any possible sporting sanctions will take its course on the basis of official reports filed in relation to the match in question,” it said.

The MFA executive board will today be discussing a procedure aimed at fighting racism in the sport.

The procedure is based on regulations drawn up in a 2009 UEFA Executive Meeting in Lithuania.

Regulations state that if the referee becomes aware of racist behaviour, he will be allowed to stop the game.

“He will then request an announcement to be made over the public-address system asking spectators to immediately stop any racist behaviour,” UEFA regulations state.

If the racist behaviour does not cease after the game has restarted, the referee will suspend the match for a reasonable period of time, for example, five to 10 minutes, and request teams to go to the dressing rooms.

As a final resort, if the racist behaviour continues after a second restart, the referee can definitively abandon the match.

The UEFA delegate responsible for the match will assist the referee, through the fourth official, in determining whether the racist behaviour has ceased.

“Any decision to abandon the match will only be taken after all other possible measures have been implemented and the impact of abandoning the match on the security of the players and public has been assessed,” regulations state. “After the match, the case is referred to UEFA's disciplinary authorities.”

MFA vice-president Matthew Paris told MaltaToday that regulations will be adapted for the local scene, due to logistical limitations in Maltese stadiums.

“The procedure will have two steps, as some stadiums for example do not have a PA system, especially in minor divisions,” he said. “But the principles will remain the same.”

Bernard Grech welcomes new regulation

The Opposition leader Bernard Grech welcomed the news, saying racism “should never be tolerated, and has no space in society.”

“The fact that this proposal was put forward by an individual, Omar Rababah, and is now going to be discussed at executive level should serve as an inspiration to those who want to see change,” he said.

“Change starts with us, and we should never shy away from proposing anything that will improve our society.”