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FIFA Issues Hungary One-Match Fan Ban, Fine for Racist Abuse

LONDON (AP) — Hungary was ordered by FIFA on Tuesday to play its next World Cup qualifier without spectators as punishment for the latest racial abuse by its supporters when England played in Budapest.

Monkey chants were aimed at England forward Raheem Sterling and unused substitute Jude Bellingham, who are Black, at Puskas Arena on Sept. 2. The Hungarian federation was also fined 200,000 Swiss francs ($217,000), one of the largest financial penalties handed out to a country by the world governing body.

In a sign of a systemic problem with racism from Hungarian fans, the punishment extends the country’s run of games in empty stadiums because of racism in qualifiers for the 2014 and 2022 World Cups and Euro 2016.

The team will have to play another FIFA match without a crowd if there are future incidents of abuse, with the second match of the punishment being suspended for a probationary period of two years.

“The FIFA ban on Hungary for racism and the huge fine is welcome and a signal from FIFA of a renewed determination to punish racism,” Piara Powar, executive director of the anti-racism FARE network, told The Associated Press. “But this also means that Hungary will serve bans from two different football governing bodies at European and international level at the same time, the principle of escalation has not been applied, it will not deal with the problem of racism inside Hungarian stadiums longer term.”

Hungary’s Sept. 2 match against England in Budapest would already have been played without spectators had FIFA been asked to implement a UEFA punishment for discriminatory abuse during European Championship matches. That two-game ban on spectators will take effect next June during the Nations League.

Hungary will have to host Albania on Oct. 9 in an empty stadium in its next World Cup qualifier.

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“This case highlights the need to make sure that regulations that ensure a consistency of approach across governing bodies are in place,” Powar said. “If all Hungarian offenses had been taken into account they would be facing exclusion from the World Cup, and remedial measures would have been put in place. There should be better co-ordination between confederations, such as UEFA, and FIFA, to coordinate action.

In this case UEFA should have asked FIFA to apply their previous sanction and the Hungary vs. England match played behind closed doors. An administrative loophole has allowed racism to flourish.”

FIFA’s disciplinary committee ruled there had been “racist behavior of numerous supporters” during the England match this month that was played in front of a crowd of almost 60,000 at Puskas Arena.

The verdict came “after analyzing and taking into consideration all the circumstances of the case, specifically the seriousness of the incidents,” FIFA said in a statement highlighting “racist words and actions, throwing of objects, lighting of fireworks, blocked stairways” by Hungary fans.

FIFA’s claim to adopt a “clear zero tolerance stance against such abhorrent behavior in football” was challenged by English football’s anti-racism organization.

“What does zero tolerance approach even mean? Words that read good in print but we’ll never actually adhere to them,” tweeted Kick It Out’s head of development Troy Townsend. “Anyway, we have our own problems and don’t even go this far with punishments.”

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