UEFA to appeal for tougher sanctions on Serbia

ROB HARRIS AP Sports Writer Published:

UEFA has responded to widespread outrage against the racism sanctions imposed on Serbia for the abuse directed at England players during an under-21s match in October by deciding to appeal against its own disciplinary panel's verdict.

Serbian fans directed monkey chants at black England players throughout an ill-tempered match in Krusevac that ended in an on-pitch brawl between players and coaches from both teams.

The British government led the condemnation against the perceived leniency of the €80,000 ($105,000) fine imposed on the Football Association of Serbia. Several Serbian coaches and players were also suspended and the team was ordered to play one under-21s match in an empty stadium.

Despite claiming they were provoked, two England players also received bans that will take effect at the under-21 European Championship in June.

While UEFA announced Wednesday it will appeal against all the sanctions imposed on Serbia and England by its independent control and disciplinary body, the governing body highlighted the racist abuse by fans.

"Having reviewed the motivated decisions for the sanctions imposed ... the UEFA disciplinary inspector felt it necessary to immediately confirm his intention to appeal on UEFA's behalf," European football's governing body said in a statement.

UEFA was lobbied by the English Football Association and groups, including Football Against Racism in Europe.

"UEFA now have an opportunity to send out a message," FARE executive director Piara Powar said. "It takes a lot of honesty and self-reflection to admit that one arm of the organization got it wrong ... what happened warranted a harder sanction."

Serbia's punishment drew unfavorable comparisons with the €100,000 fine given to Denmark striker Nicklas Bendtner for wearing sponsored underpants at Euro 2012 in June.

UEFA President Michel Platini had indicated he was likely to seek tougher sanctions against Serbia, having previously urged its government to enact stricter laws and to do more to tackle violence and discrimination by its fans.

UEFA's panel imposed international bans on four Serbia players of between two and four years, while two coaches were banned from football for two years. Parts of their punishments were suspended.

England won the match 1-0 to advance to the under-21 European Championship in Israel.

The English FA previously said it would appeal suspensions for defender Steven Caulker (two matches) and midfielder Thomas Ince (one match).

England coach Stuart Pearce said Caulker and Ince were not aggressive and were only protecting themselves. UEFA's appeal could result in those sanctions being reduced or overturned.

The post-match brawl began after England defender Danny Rose complained about being subjected to monkey chants every time he touched the ball. He was sent off after the final whistle for after kicking a ball into the stands, gesturing to the crowd as he walked off the pitch.

The appeals will not be heard until after the Jan. 8 deadline for all sides to challenge the ruling.

Serbia FA general secretary Zoran Lakovic previously acknowledged that the Balkan country is on its "last warning" from UEFA and would not appeal.

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