FIFA Fines World Cup Host Russia for Racist Chanting by Fans

(Bloomberg) -- FIFA fined Russian soccer’s governing body for racist chants by local fans in a game against France, just five weeks before the World Cup is set to begin amid concerns that the country’s sports officials have failed to address racism among fans.

The Russian organization was fined 30,000 Swiss francs ($29,900) after weighing “the gravity of the incident but also the limited number of fans involved,” Zurich-based FIFA, the sport’s governing body, said Tuesday in a statement. Video of the March match in St. Petersburg, which France won 3-1, showed Russian spectators directing monkey noises at Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba before the Frenchman scored.

Russian soccer fans have a history of racist behavior, with two top teams, Zenit and Spartak, fined last month by the football union for chanting in their stadiums, according to Tass news agency. Another team, CSKA, was forced to play matches in an empty arena in 2014 to punish its supporters. In one infamous episode in 2010, a Nigerian player was taunted by a banana sign before his final game at Lokomotiv Moscow.

“The sanction for racist behavior ahead of the World Cup is welcome and shows how deep racism is still part of fan culture in Russia,” Pavel Klymenko, who monitors racism in European soccer for the Fair Network, said. “While it might be relatively easy to control known troublemakers during the tournament, many regular fans who are part of this culture and used to these practices might be more difficult to contain.”

Russia, which won the right to host the World Cup under a cloud of suspicion that contributed to the ouster of FIFA’s long-time head Sepp Blatter, is eager that the tournament go off without a hitch. President Vladimir Putin, inaugurated to his fourth term this week, has lent his prestige to the success of the world’s most watched sporting event, personally overseeing preparations.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.