Former Tottenham Hotspur and Portsmouth midfielder Kevin Prince-Boateng walked off the pitch in a friendly for AC Milan as a result of racist chanting.
Back in 2007, UEFA outlined their strategies to deal with racist and abusive behaviour towards players during international matches. These included revoking national associations’ licences, which would mean they could no longer participate in future competitions, and fining those associations up to 1 million Euros.
Another option that was made available to referees was the ability to stop the game if players were suffering abuse from fans, bring in police and UEFA match delegates, and decide whether it was safe or not to continue the match.
If all parties agreed that the crowd could not be calmed down and the safety of the players not ensured, then international games would be abandoned.
All of this became big news at Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine where nations believed that there was a genuine chance of players suffering racist abuse from fans in the stadia.
One of the more memorable quotes came from Mario Balotelli who said that he would leave the pitch if he was subjected to any chanting and said that he would go to prison because he would kill whoever was doing it.
Once again the issue has raised its head in Italy where Kevin-Prince Boateng, after receiving constant racist abuse from fans of lower league Pro Patria in a friendly, walked off the pitch with the rest of his AC Milan teammates and abandoned the game.
Boateng and AC Milan have rightly received a lot of credit for standing up to the imbeciles in the crowd and their actions have been seen as the perfect solution in future to tackling the racism issue which is plaguing the English game at the moment.
However, there are a number of issues with implementing this into football matches. Firstly, does the responsibility to identify and call off the match belong to the player or the referee?
The job of the referee is to implement the rules of the game and protect the players on the pitch, and in examples from the past they have been responsible for pointing out spectators who are hurling abuse at players.
But with all the scrutiny they are already under for their performances, putting crowd control on that list of responsibilities as well would make their job impossible.
Handing the power over to the players to walk off, as Boateng did, could never work either. Although they would be the most able people to identify when abusive chanting was taking place, because they are on the receiving end of it, the power would unfortunately be open to abuse.
In a cynical world it wouldn't be difficult to imagine a team being 3-0 down in a European qualifier, having a number of players missing with injuries and fatigued with their domestic league commitments, and then suddenly players begin walking off the pitch to replay the game at a more convenient time, because a player claims to have received racial abuse.
Vice versa, if a player’s team is winning 3-0 in a crucial European qualifier and is subjected to racial abuse then surely they would be less inclined to walk off the pitch, subjecting themselves to vile abuse so that they can get three points?
It is an admirable stance but not one that any player in the game should have to suffer. Policy at the moment tends to dictate that anyone caught by officials to be dishing out racist abuse to players from the stands is immediately ejected from the stadium and banned for life.
This may sometimes be followed up with fines for national associations, and legal proceedings take place against the fan, but neither really tackles the problem.
Instead UEFA and FIFA too should adopt the zero tolerance they preach so much about and start deducting points from national teams or banning them from competitions all together.
Unfortunately this does mean that the majority of fans will have to suffer for the few idiots in the crowd but if it can create an atmosphere in stadia all over Europe where spectators see racist chanting as completely detrimental to their country’s cause then perhaps a few more can be silenced and talented sportsmen like Kevin-Prince Boateng can do what they do best.