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European football's governing body have yet again issued a half-hearted punishment for football's darkest crime after Mario Balotelli was abused by fans in Poznan last week

 Greg Stobart
 In Kharkiv
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COMMENT

Just how many times can Uefa be allowed to get away with making a complete mockery of their own claims that they take the issue of racism in football seriously?

On Tuesday, the governing body of European football issued a pathetic €80,000 fine to the Croatian FA for racist chanting and improper conduct after their supporters threw a banana at Mario Balotelli and made monkey noises during their Euro 2012 Group C game against Italy last week in Poznan.

That is €20,000 less than the €100,000 fine handed to Denmark striker Nicklas Bendtner for showing his Paddy Power pants while celebrating a goal earlier in the tournament.

It is clear where Uefa’s priorities lie. Racism is less serious an issue than a bit of ‘guerilla marketing’ that might upset their sponsors.

UEFA FINES IN 2012

EN pOPORTO, APRIL 3
RACIST BEHAVIOUR BY FANS €20,000
EN GERMAN & PORTUGUESE FAs, JUNE 14
IMPROPER CONDUCT BY FANS €15,000
EN CROATIAN FA, JUNE 15
IMPROPER CONDUCT BY FANS
€25,000
EN RUSSIAN FA, JUNE 17
IMPROPER CONDUCT BY FANS
€30,000
EN NICKLAS BENDTNER, JUNE 18
IMPROPER CONDUCT
€100,000
EN CROATIAN FA, JUNE 19
RACIST BEHAVIOUR BY FANS
€80,000

In 2004, the Spanish football federation were fined €55,000 for racism; Serbia €41,500 in 2007 while Uefa’s cowardice extends to club football, with Porto fined €20,000 for monkey chants directed at Balotelli during a Europa League match in February.

The only reason Croatia have been fined more is because this is their second offence in four years after they were fined €20,000 in 2008.

It is a tale of pitifulness that has left black players considering walking off pitches, yet rather than shame those supporters, Uefa consistently lets them off with a slap on the wrist.

Racism is the biggest cancer in football and poses the highest risk to the reputation of the sport, and this summer’s European Championship.

So why, again, do we see such a desperately weak message from the bigwigs? It will do little to persuade clubs, associations and governments to take seriously an issue that dominated the headlines before the start of Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.

The English FA made a strong statement last season by banning Liverpool striker Luis Suarez for eight games after finding him guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra.

You would think that Uefa would have wanted to put their boot to the necks of the Croatian FA in similar fashion given the fears coming into the tournament about racism during Euro 2012.

Not to mention the fact that the sponsors they are so keen to protect want to associate their brand with a squeaky clean image.

Slaven Bilic, the Croatia manager, launched a scathing attack on the "crazy" supporters who abused Balotelli, saying he was ashamed of them and adding: "we have to put sanctions to stop these kind of supporters forever".

Croatia should have been fined at least €150,000, they should have been made to play their next competitive home match behind closed doors and given the same six-point suspended sentence for the Euro 2016 qualifiers that Russia received last week for violent fan behaviour in Wroclaw.

What a wasted opportunity. Uefa are quite happy to come down hard on Bentdner, or give Arsene Wenger a €40,000 fine and three-match touchline ban for criticising a referee.

But when it comes to racism, they don’t get the message and they don’t send a message. It leaves the impression that they don’t really care.

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