UEFA were handed a great opportunity today, an opportunity to show anyone contemplating racially abusing players that it, and they, would not be tolerated. They fudged it.
When a captain of a national squad reports that his black team mates were subjected to monkey chants during a training session, UEFA simply must do something - whether there is an official complaint or not.
In fact what they did in reaction to Marc van Bommel’s very public comments was even worse. Their response, read to the effect that, they were aware of the incident and if it happened again they would do something about it.
They then went on to state they had a zero tolerance policy to discriminatory behaviour. So how does that work then? Zero means nothing. They can’t have it both ways, either they ask some detailed questions about what happened to the Dutch or they must revise their policy to a less punchy but more accurate ‘almost’ zero tolerance approach.
What all this has done is shown UEFA to be weak, cowed even and opened the door to future abuse. That abuse is vile and it threatens to disrupt this tournament.
Van Bommel said if he heard the same during a match he would lead his team off. That puts him in direct conflict with UEFA who rule that only a referee can make that decision.
I would suggest that Van Bommel might be less likely to carry out his threat if UEFA had shown some strong leadership today and convinced him he wouldn’t ever need to take matters in his own hands.
UEFA president Michel Platini said this week, and I paraphrase, that he cannot be held responsible for any racism issues in Poland and Ukraine, any more than he can in France or the UK.
Well of course you can’t Mr President but you awarded the tournament to this part of Europe so you have a responsibility to the players and indeed the fans who have travelled to take part in your festival of football.
And if that responsibility extends to saying a few things that might upset your hosts, then so be it.
Some issues transcend diplomacy and this is one of those.