March 03, 2015

MOSCOW (AP) Russia needs to crack down on racism ahead of hosting the 2018 World Cup, the general secretary of the Russian Football Union said Tuesday.

Anatoly Vorobyov told The Associated Press that ''unfortunately not everything is going smoothly'' with Russia's fight against racism in soccer.

Last week, a report by two anti-discrimination organizations said there had been more than 200 cases of discriminatory behavior linked to Russian soccer over two seasons.

''We have enough disciplinary measures which are laid out in our regulations. On the other hand, perhaps they need to be used more strictly,'' Vorobyov said. ''It's necessary that the professional football league and the clubs work more actively to that end.''

Russia faces extra scrutiny because of the World Cup and the RFU has a short window to reform the game, Vorobyov said.

''I think that really the host nation for the World Cup is under a microscope,'' Vorobyov said. ''There has been a lot of reports about corruption issues, both about Qatar and about Russia, and ... there is really increased interest in host nations.''

While he was eager to stress that racism is not only a Russian problem, citing an incident last week in which Roma forward Gervinho was taunted with an inflatable banana by Feyenoord fans, Vorobyov's candor on Russia's own shortcomings is rare among senior Russian soccer officials.

He added that the RFU is preparing to appoint a new anti-racism czar to lead education efforts and gather evidence for disciplinary cases. The typical punishment for clubs whose fans stage racist displays is a fine or a partial closure of the team's stadium.

Last week, FIFA president Sepp Blatter told the AP that Russia could face sanctions if its record on racism does not improve.

The racism report by the Moscow-based SOVA Center and the Fare network collated dozens of cases where fans carried out campaigns and sold far-right merchandise to collect money for imprisoned neo-Nazis. It provides a detailed breakdown of discriminatory incidents around matches, pinpointing 72 displays of neo-Nazi symbols, 22 acts against people from the Caucasus region, which includes Dagestan and Chechnya, and five occasions of abuse against black people.

The report, which covers 2012-14, does not include an apparent rise in the targeting of black players being documented this season, Fare said.

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