Fifa ordered clubs last month to introduce a range of punitive measures for fans’ racist behaviour, including possible points deductions and enforced relegation. The Football Association adopted the regulations immediately. However, other countries, notably Italy, had not incorporated them into their statutes before Fifa issued a circular letter to all national federations on Tuesday.
The letter, signed by Fifa’s general secretary Urs Linsi, dictated that: “Associations that have yet to incorporate the revised article into their regulations are required to do so by July 1, 2006.”
The circular was a clear departure from Fifa’s pledge to sanction clubs heavily for infractions with immediate effect. “I can tell you the new rules for racism are immediately applicable,” Fifa’s president Sepp Blatter had said on announcing the new rules on March 17.
Sources say that Linsi had succumbed to strong lobbying from the Italian federation, which refused to implement the rules immediately. Linsi would not comment on the issue. However, four days before the Fifa general secretary’s letter was issued, the Italian federation chairman Franco Carraro had been able to make an announcement that the anti-racism rules would not be effective in the country until July.
The delay and subsequent deferment turned out to be very convenient for Internazionale. A section of the club’s fans subjected Messina’s Ivorian Mark Zoro (above) to disgraceful racist abuse for the second time this season, only 15 days after Fifa’s regulations were supposed to have come into effect. In what might have been a high-profile test case for Fifa’s new laws, Inter were instead fined ‚¬25,000.