Referee halts division 1 football game over racist taunts

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FF Jaro players thank fans after their 2-1 away win over Tammisaari on 27th April 2019 / Credit: FFJaro Instagram

A Finnish referee halted a division 1 football game this weekend, after hearing racist taunts from away supporters.

Mohammad Al-Emara was officiating the opening game of the season between Pietarsaari’s FF Jaro and Tammisaari’s EIF on Saturday when he heard racist taunts from Jaro supporters during the first half.

The referee asked announcers to tell the crowd the match would be suspended if the racism continued. The taunts stopped, and the match continued after a five minute delay.

Rules for referees 

Under FIFA’s rules, there’s a three-step protocol that referees can use to tackle racism from supporters. They can first pause the match and request a public announcement to insist that racist behaviour cease. If this has no effect, the referee can then suspend play; but if the racism continues the referee can abandon the match completely.

It’s not the first time a football match in Finland has been halted to due to racism from supporters, but Ilari Äijälä from the Red Card to Racism campaign says the protocol is  “hardly used” by any referee anywhere.

However, the same Finnish referee Mohamma Al-Emara took action to halt a league game last season as well when he heard racist taunts. Players later voted him referee of the year.

“I think the situation is getting better. Maybe five or ten years ago there would have been racist shouting but nothing would have emerged from it, and tackling racism has become a big issue now in international footballs” Äijälä tells News Now Finland.

“I don’t think in Finland we have real big problems, I don’t want to emphasise it too much, but the clubs are taking it more seriously” he adds.

Club reaction to racism incident 

In response to the incident, FF Jaro released a statement on their website condemning racism and saying that while the team won their match, “it was not only positive things that happened in Tammisaari”.

“Let us be clear – there is no place for racism in FF Jaro or the Jaro Family” says the club.

“The whole of FF Jaro’s existence is rooted in everyone’s equal value. In our business everyone is welcome – regardless of origin, skin colour, native language, religion or sexual orientation” the statement continues.

FF Jaro say they’ll welcome an inquiry from the Finnish Football Association into the incident, and pledge to investigate within the club to find out exactly what happened.

The club’s swift response drew praise from Red Card to Racism, the independent non-profit that works with clubs, supporters groups and sports governing bodies in Finland.

“It’s a good way to react, immediately, not after a week. Nowadays you have to react so that everyone sees that you take it seriously” says Ilari Äijälä.