Hungary and Bulgaria sanctioned to play without spectators
© AFP

The FIFA Disciplinary Committee today, 8 January 2013 notified the Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ) and Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) of sanctions imposed at the meeting of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee on 20 November 2012.

Following the friendly match between Hungary and Israel, played on 15 August 2012 in Budapest, Hungary, FIFA was informed by FARE (Football Against Racism Europe), the Israelitische Kultusgmeinde Wien, and the Centre Simon Wiesenthal, that a group of supporters had chanted anti-Semitic chants, and displayed other offensive symbols.

Following an extensive investigation, during which the MLSZ acknowledged and regretted the behaviour of a group of Hungarian supporters, the members of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee were unanimous in condemning an abhorrent episode of racism, anti-Semitism, and of political provocative and aggressive nature perpetrated by supporters of the Hungarian national team.

After taking into account the full circumstances of the case, and in particular due to the gravity of the incidents, the Committee decided that the next home match of the ‘A’ representative team of Hungary in the preliminary competition for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ (Hungary v Romania on 22 March 2013) will be played without spectators. The Committee also decided to impose a fine of CHF 40,000 on the MLSZ.

In the preliminary Competition match for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ between Bulgaria and Denmark on 12 October 2012, it was reported by both the referee and the Match Commissioner, that as well as two fireworks being thrown onto the pitch in the 7th minute, Denmark’s Patrick Mtiliga was subjected to racist abuse by a group of Bulgarian supporters each time he touched the ball after entering the field in the 54th minute.

In the 73rd minute, the Match Commissioner spoke to the 4th official, and a public address warning was given to the home fans by the announcer. Although the level of abuse subsided, audible racist abuse still continued until the final whistle.

Following the opening of disciplinary proceedings on 17 October 2012, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee analysed the match officials’ reports, reports from FARE, as well as the position of the BFU.

The Committee agreed that the offensive, denigratory and discriminatory actions of a small group of Bulgarian supporters, was shameful and a clear breach of the FIFA Disciplinary Code (FDC). In addition, the incendiary devices thrown, which can pose considerable threats to personal safety, are also not tolerated.

In conclusion, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee, taking into account once more the gravity of the circumstances, decided that the next home match of the ‘A’ representative team of Bulgaria in the preliminary competition for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ (Bulgaria v Malta on 22 March 2013), will be played without spectators.

The Committee also decided that due to more than one incident occurring, the minimum fine outlined in art. 58 par. 2 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code was not sufficient, and imposed a fine of CHF 35,000.

The MLZS and BFU have both been warned to their future conduct, and should such incidents of a racist nature occur again, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee would be left with no other option than to impose harsher sanctions, which could go as far as forfeiting a match, a points deduction, or disqualification from a competition. The costs of each case will also be borne the MLZS and BFU.

FIFA strongly condemns all forms of racism in football, and any form of discrimination will not be tolerated and will receive a strong response by the relevant FIFA authorities.

According to Article 67 par. 1 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code, the home association is liable for the improper conduct among spectators, regardless of the question of culpable conduct. Article 58 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code - which is also applicable regardless of the question of culpable conduct - clearly sets out the minimum sanctions at FIFA’s disposal, in the event of discriminatory behaviour.

According to article 96 par. 1 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code, any type of proof may be produced and par. 3 of article 96 provides for a non-exhaustive list of admissible evidence.

The Committee also wishes to underline that, whilst disciplinary infringements are prosecuted ex officio, any person might report conduct that he or she considers incompatible with the regulations of FIFA, to the judicial bodies. (art.108 par. 1 and 2 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code).