‘A lot of progress’ against racism in game – LaLiga president

LaLiga president Javier Tebas has told ESPN “a lot of progress” has been made regarding racism in Spanish football, but he does concede there is a lot of work still to be done to eradicate it.

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) punished LaLiga club Getafe and third-division side Sestao River on Wednesday after racist incidents at their respective stadiums on Saturday.

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Racism in football has been a recurring problem in Spain, with Real Madrid‘s Vinícius Júnior repeatedly being harassed by some opposing fans.

Asked whether Spain is a racist country, Tebas told ESPN: “No, absolutely not.

“But I am concerned with any racist issue and in fact we are having a great campaign against racism. But a lot of progress has been made in these years.

“There are no longer chants in a stadium. Almost everyone that attended [in the past] yelled in a derogatory way at each other, Black or f —-t, throughout the stadium.

“And we have eradicated that. That existed 10 or 12 years ago. Now there are much more isolated [cases].

“I believe that these events that have occurred somewhat in succession are not going to be a continuous issue in every game, far from it, as they have not been.”

However, the incidents continue to happen, with the latest coming just several days after Spain played Brazil at the Bernabéu stadium in a game organised to raise awareness of racism.

Vinícius gave an emotional prematch news conference highlighting the frequent racist abuse he suffers in Spain.

“Obviously it’s having a lot of impact because you have to know that most of these insults are also being directed at someone that has decided to lead the fight against racism, which is Vinícius,” Tebas said.

“And those of us who lead issues or topics are always more vulnerable to insults, but that must be avoided because Vinícius does not deserve the insults.

“It is also very important to protect those players that are opinion leaders in this fight against racism, because they are the most vulnerable. So you have to be very on top of them and Vinícius knows, we try to protect them as much as possible.”

Tebas applauded the Spanish FA disciplinary committee’s latest verdicts.

Getafe were ordered to partially close their central stand for three matches after the racial and xenophobic abuse directed at Sevilla manager Quique Sánchez Flores and player Marcos Acuña. Meanwhile, Sestao River were handed a two-game stadium closure after Rayo Majadahonda goalkeeper Cheikh Sarr was targeted by home fans.

“It’s good news that stadium closure measures are already being taken, which is an issue that we have been demanding for quite some time now,” Tebas said.

Tebas said the racist abuse suffered by Vinícius at the Mestalla stadium during a league game at Valencia in May 2023 was a turning point.

Vinícius has said “racism is normal in LaLiga.”

“What we were doing was not enough,” Tebas said.

“We had to do more. We had to work much more, not only in prevention, in detection, in complaints and in the powers that we demand in order to take measures… We have reported many hate crimes before Vinícius, with Vinícius, and afterwards we will do the same.”

LaLiga has reported numerous racist incidents to the Spanish courts, but many of those cases have been dismissed.

“Sometimes we find that either the prosecution has considered, well, that these shouts are not a big deal,” Tebas said.

“We have been relentless on this issue and we will continue to do so, but always it is never enough, but we will continue working and expanding our radius of action.

“From the moment we report it [racist episode] until they [perpetrators] are not allowed to enter the stadium, one or two years pass.

“These intervals must be shortened. Those elements of deterrence are very important.”