Bucurest, 14. 9. 2005, 12:34 (ERIO)
On Friday, September 8, 2005, UEFA announced that it would increase the initial fine for racist incidents against Romanian football team Steaua Bucuresti, and suspend their stadium for their next UEFA game. This is the first time a stadium has been suspended for racist acts. These actions followed President of UEFA Lennart Johannson's courageous declaration: "We are concerned about racism, particularly in Bulgaria and Romania."
Racism plagues stadiums all across Europe. However, there is a growing awareness about anti-Gypsyism at the national and European level, and UEFA's officials are interested in finding out more about it and they are ready to look for ways to curb it.
The first step has already been taken.
UEFA officials made a very strong statement. They made clear that they are serious about stopping racism in the stadiums and sent a chilling message to the European clubs whose supporters are prone to racist behaviour.
In Romania the news provoked an open debate about racism, perhaps the first of it kind. Despite an initial defensive reaction, most of the Romanian mass media has responded with articles on the problems of racism in sport, which has been largely ignored until this point. UEFA's action has raised unprecedented awareness and debate on the issue.
Steaua Bucuresti was hit hard by the sentence, and some Romanians feel that UEFA has been too harsh on them. It is a painful process for Steaua's supporters, and indeed most Romanians, to accept that Steaua has been punished for racism.
During the last three days ERIO has been flooded by phone calls from Romanian TV stations, radios and newspapers in regard to racism and especially anti-Gypsyism in Romania and in the stadiums. For the first time, ERIO has had the opportunity to promote a pro-tolerance message and talk openly about anti-Romani prejudices using major mass media outlets in Romania.
UEFA has made a major step forward in stopping racism. ERIO hopes that other public personalities, major politicians and European and international institutions will follow UEFA lead.
The Romanian National Council Against Discrimination -CNCD also deserves congratulations for its courage and strong position against racism in Romania.