By Rob Stewart
Anti-racism campaigners have hit out at Uefa after the football governing body handed out a heavier fine to Nicklas Bendtner for showing his underwear than that given to the Croatian FA for the racist behaviour of fans.
England-based Show Racism the Red Card lamented the €80,000 sanction - which also took into consideration the setting-off of fireworks - handed out after Croatia fans were found guilty of racially abusing Italy's Mario Balotelli during a Euro 2012 group game.The punishment was imposed just days after Bendtner earned a one-match ban and €100,000 fine for revealing sponsored underwear, and the discrepancy has not gone down well with Show Racism the Red Card chief executive Ged Grebby.
“When Croatia are fined less than Nicklas Bendtner for wearing dodgy underpants, it sends out the wrong message,” Grebby told Goal.com.
“It suggests that if you upset our sponsors that you will get a bigger fine than a team whose fans are guilty of racism and that is unwelcome.
“It is a shame because the overall message on anti-racism has been really strong and that has come from Michel Platini at the top to the billboards at the grounds.
“All in all we are happy with the way Uefa have been dealing with racism but it just seems to me that this fine for the Croatian FA is simply not big enough.
“I certainly hope that they learn from the criticism that has come their way over these fines. I know they have a ‘three strikes and you’re out policy’ that jumps quickly from fines to closing grounds and deducting points.
“If the initial fine was so big that it would have an effect that would be a big help because, let’s face it, 80,000 euros in football, especially at these championships, is not even the equivalent of a slap on the wrists.”
While Grebby, who is based near Newcastle, was dissatisfied with Uefa for their response to the Croatian fans’ conduct, he applauded Croatia head coach Slaven Bilic for his condemnation of his compatriots.
“We would have to praise Slaven Bilic because his comments were outstanding,” Grebby said.
“You don’t challenge the racists by turning them into martyrs, you challenge them by turning them into pariahs which is what Bilic has done in making it clear that they are letting everyone down within their own country.
“It was about time that someone in these countries that have the worst problems stood up and condemned the racists which is what Bilic has done and so he deserves praise because that is the way to go about it.
“I am not just talking about eastern European countries I am talking about Italy and Spain and Croatia and Ukraine and Russia but we need people like Bilic to make a stand so it was absolutely outstanding the way he responded.
“There are not enough leading role models speaking out in these countries but the opposite is true in places like England and Germany where there have been high-profile campaigns that have been successful thanks to key people speaking out.
“They are not far-right countries, it’s just that the far-right are much bigger there. In countries such as Croatia and Russia racism is a bigger problem but we have a huge problem of racism within the far right in England as well."
Speaking generally about the tournament, Grebby applauded Uefa for their efforts to combat racism.
“Overall, Uefa have done very well when it has come to fighting racism at the Euros,” Grebby continued.
“There have been a lot of positives so far. One if the things that have made an impact are the billboards around the ground because they set the tone by sending out a strong message that racism will not be tolerated.
“There have been racist incidents but they have been of a smaller scale. There have been a lot of plusses and it has helped that incidents have been dealt with very quickly and fines issued when the championships are still taking place.
“I would not want to go as far as to say that racism will not come into the ground because I get the impression that there are still under-currents so we must always be vigilant.”