KEIR RADNEDGE in LONDON: Jeff Webb has welcomed UEFA’s decision to suspend Italian federation president Carlo Tavecchio for six months for a racist comment.

Webb, chairman of world federation FIFA’s anti-discrimination task force, was reacting to Tuesday’s disciplinary ruling by a Europan federation which has finally woken up to the issue over the last two years.

Tavecchio, in his summer campaign to win the leadership of the FIGC, had referred to African players as “banana eaters” while reviewing the problem of foreign footballers affecting national team performance.

The vacancy at the head of the Italian federation had been created by the resignation of Giancarlo Abete as a consequence of the Azzurri’s group stage exit from the World Cup finals in Brazil in the summer.

Webb, who is also president of Central/North American confederation CONCACAF, was addressing the Leaders Business Summit.*

Words turned into action

He said: “Congratulations to UEFA. They have made a huge step with the decision about the Italian federation. They’ve been talking for a long time about zero tolerance and saying No to racism but now we see action coming forth and that is very refreshing.”

Webb warned however that the international football authorities faced a major test in educating Russian football about the discrimination challenge ahead of the 2018 World Cup hosting.

Fans’ racist abuse of black players in Russia was an issue during the country’s bid to win World Cup host rights in 2010 and nothing appears to have changed, judging by recent incidents involving Brazilian forward Hulk of Zenit St Petersburg and Christopher Samba of Dynamo Moscow.

Webb said: “It’s a huge challenge in Russia. We must start with education and it must come from the top down.”

One note of reassurance which he delivered was to note that FIFA’s own investment in anti-discrmination staff was beginning to bear fruit. Webb had complained during the World Cup in Brazil that not enough had been done in time to deal with fan abuse incidents.

He said: “The investments we have requested from the anti-racism committe are starting to take shape. Human resources are now being allocated with investments in training officers starting to come in.”

* Leaders Business Summit at Chelsea FC, Stamford Bridge, London

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