Football's governing bodies have questions to answer and obvious action to take, but they're opting out, again
SO FAR, everyone and everything has come under the microscope. The vermin rump of the Rangers support, the police, the Rock Steady security personnel, the Manchester City Council, Tesco, the heat, the Mancunian element, the travelling Northern Irish. We've heard it all from every conceivable side but the people we've heard precious little from are the men from UEFA. This was their party after all. Their show.
Where have they been the past few days? Michel Platini? David Taylor?
William Gaillard? Have you nothing to say beyond the blindingly obvious? It was a disgrace? You don't say. Your thoughts are with the Russian fan who got stabbed? How reassuring. You will launch an inquiry? I see.
UEFA's inquiry, as they've already made clear, will begin and end at the City of Manchester Stadium. It will involve the stabbing of the fan and the pitch invasion of the Zenit St Petersburg supporters and nothing else. That is the top and bottom of UEFA's responsibility as they see it. That's what's written in their constitution. Anything that happened away from the ground and it's ostrich time.
Mayhem on the streets after their event. Police assaulted after their event. Cars ransacked after their event. Innocent people scared half to death after their event. Tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage after their event. FTP, UVF, Fenian blood before and after their event.
Nothing to do with them, though. Away from the stadium, see. How can UEFA absolve themselves of responsibility in this way? Are they a governing body or not?
By rights, UEFA should be getting ready to suspend Rangers from European competition for a year. They should look at a video presentation, beginning with the incidents involving PC Mick Regan and the second involving another constable whose own pitiful plight was revealed on BBC Scotland on Friday and decide that they have no other option. Two officers down and two officers extremely lucky to be up and about today. They could have been maimed or killed. That's your starting point, UEFA. Do you condone the brutal assault of these policemen? If not, what are you prepared to do about it? UEFA will not ban Rangers because a precedent of outrageous leniency has already been set. They favour fines but most of all they opt out.
In Italy, nobody gets banned despite violence and murder at their football. Outside the stadium again, though. They can't go and ban Rangers now after turning a blind eye to Italian clubs whose hooligans cause death and destruction seemingly every season.
The fighting in Manchester was by far the most disturbing thing but the blight of sectarianism was there in force, too. As a club Rangers have already had their warnings about bigoted chanting and, to the undoubted mortification of Sir David Murray who has done all he can in this regard, these warnings were ignored by factions in the support last week. Sectarian songs could be heard all over Manchester on Wednesday afternoon.
They could be heard in a service station on the road down there on Wednesday morning. At 8.45am I heard them myself. A group of about 20 started up and only stopped when an elderly fan shouted: "Now, now boys, no sectarianism today."
"Football owes itself to be an example in our societies," said Platini last August. "Football must teach values to Europe – honesty, courage, fraternity, tolerance and peace. Football includes, integrates, and welcomes. It excludes no one, it discriminates against no one, it persecutes no one. The battle that we have undertaken against racism and discrimination is a combat which will only stop when these phenomena have disappeared from our stadiums."
Football persecutes no one. Gosh. Wouldn't it be wonderful to live in the fantasy world of Michel?
Again, note the words 'disappeared from our stadiums'. Do what you like outside is the message. Riot on somebody else's doorstep. Just don't do it in our backyard.
Taylor has come out with similar waffle since being appointed general secretary. "I don't know who they (the bigots and racists) are," he said. "I don't know what interest they have in football. They are not welcome in football or anywhere near it. UEFA has its approach to these problems. We will kick clubs out of European competitions, even national teams if players or supporters act in a racist way. These sorts of sanctions are there and UEFA will not be afraid to use them if the circumstances are serious enough. So we have no tolerance for racist behaviour."
What utter bunk. What unadulterated garbage. UEFA will act if the "circumstances are serious enough," says Taylor.
Since making that statement last year players have been racially abused all over Europe and Taylor hasn't said a word. In November, Zola Matumona quit FC Brussels after being singled out by the Belgian club's president who told Matumona to think about other things than "trees and bananas".
In France, in September and February, fans at Bastia and Metz and Grenoble were involved in racist incidents. One black player gestured to the people who were abusing him and got sent off.
In Montenegro, DaMarcus Beasley and Jean-Claude Darcheville were abused. In Russia, Zenit fans are serial offenders. Dick Advocaat says he cannot sign black players, that the club supporters wouldn't have it. In Germany, Cottbus continue to get away with horrendous chanting.
Closer to home, Russell Latapy was targeted by Hibs fans last September.
None of these were serious enough for the fearless Taylor and the organisation that is "not afraid" to use heavy sanctions. FK Zeta got a ?9,000 fine for their hateful treatment of Beasley and Darcheville. And UEFA have the brass neck to talk about football's courage, honesty and fraternity. Platini and his cohorts speak no more sense than the violent wasters who wrecked Manchester on a breakfast of Buckfast, a lunch of lager and a dinner of a combination of the two. No wonder Platini rose to high office. His Gallic shrug would have deeply impressed the delegates. "What can we do, my friends? We are powerless to act. It says it here in our rules."
UEFA don't do unpleasantness if they can help it. Platini is a great man for presenting medals. If there's a function to speak at, he's your guy. If there's an anti-racism drive to champion he'll happily pose beside little children of all nationalities and vow to stamp out this terrible cancer in the beautiful game.
Then, five minutes later, some unreconstructed Serbians will hound a visiting black player with monkey chants and bananas and Michel will weigh in with his "zero tolerance" mantra, the upshot of which will be a nine thousand euro fine and a UEFA request that they cut out that sort of thing in the future.
Like their big brother FIFA, they are here only for the finer things in life, so expecting them to do or say anything of use in the wake of the Manchester riot is a forlorn hope. Given that so many of them flew through the air the other night you might hesitate to bring bottle into this, but this is a question of nerve and UEFA don't appear to have any. Look at the tapes of the trouble, Michel. Your final. Your night.
But not your job to interfere? How's that then?