Saturday September 7 2019
Nicchi: 'Refs can't stop play for racism'

Referees’ Association President Marcello Nicchi insists those responsible for racist abuse should be “thrown in jail,” but it is not up to the official.

While in France this season, referees have stopped play several times for racist and homophobic chants, in Italy the debate rages on after Inter forward Romelu Lukaku was racially abused by Cagliari fans.

“There are procedures in place and they need to be applied, as set out by the FIGC, to shut down certain sections of the stadium,” AIA President Nicchi told the Corriere dello Sport.

“We referees have a lot of responsibility on our shoulders to deal with the game, but it’s important here to clear the air and state the situation with absolute certainty: you cannot dump this problem on the referees.

“The referees will not change their attitude in this area.”

A recent review confirmed the decision on whether to suspend play goes down to the FIGC and Lega Serie A observers in the stadium.

However, as their main concern is ensuring public safety, it’s rare they would ask for a game to be stopped, as it’d risk creating more restlessness.

“The most important thing is not to underestimate the problem. I feel racist should be identified immediately, stopped and put in jail. It would serve as a deterrent, I am sure of it.

“There are now dozens and dozens of CCTV cameras inside stadiums now, not to mention observers from the Lega and police. Even the local council could get involved.

“We know full well who is in the stadium, who is leading the chants in the Curva. All we need is the genuine desire to take action and it can be done.

“Referees are the last to notice these things, because we are already focused on the football. Nowadays, we have earpieces in to communicate with VAR, there is so much to concentrate on, so how can he also be keeping on top of what is chanted from which area of the stands?

“A referee cannot take on the responsibility of suspending a game, because that transforms it into a public order issue. You’d have to evacuate the crowds, maintain order. We cannot be shouldered with that kind of responsibility. There are rules in place, so let’s simply apply them.

“I also want to point out that the players insulted must never feel alone. We show full solidarity with those players who were shamefully abused.

“Evidently, we need exemplary punishment. Let’s get the first person to hurl racist abuse at a black player, throw him in prison and see what happens then. The time has come to take serious action.”

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