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Soccer must do more to fight racism says Task Force boss

FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks during a news conference in St. Petersburg January 20, 2013. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk
FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks during a news conference in St. Petersburg January 20, 2013. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk

By Mike Collett

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Soccer has failed to respond to victims of racism on or off the pitch for far too long and needs to change its attitudes now, Jeffrey Webb, the chairman of FIFA's new Anti-Racism and Discrimination Task Force said on Saturday.

Webb, the president of the CONCACAF confederation of countries in north and central Amercia and the Caribbean, has been appointed by FIFA president Sepp Blatter to review the way the sport handles racist incidents, which have dramatically increased in recent years.

He also said he wanted to meet players from England's Premier League to discuss their experiences of racism in an attempt to forge new strategies to deal with the problem.

Asked if he would like to meet John Terry, Anton Ferdinand, Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra, who were all involved in racist incidents last season in England, Webb replied he would like to meet players involved in both sides of the problem.

"We've been talking for a long time in football and I don't really think that we've supported the players. I don't think we've necessarily put the right sanctions in place to support them," he told reporters.

"It's a travesty that it comes to that. We as FIFA and the governing bodies have to make sure that players like Kevin Prince-Boateng and all the players around the world have the same rights and opportunities."

AC Milan's Boateng led his team mates off the pitch in protest after being racially abused by fans of fourth-division Italian club Pro Patria during a friendly in January.

The Task Force will begin its initial work after a FIFA executive committee later this month which will decides its composition and it will make its preliminary report to the FIFA Congress in Mauritius in May.

Webb, who is attending the International Board's law-making meeting in the Scottish capital, said: "What I hope to bring to it is two parts. The first part is dealing with the sanctions. But, also, it's an educational process, engaging the players, engaging some non governmental organizations (NGOS) and also the football fans and the clubs.

"I really don't think that financial instruments in today's world is enough to deal with it.

"With the money that's involved in football today, the fines that are being established, I don't think they're working, obviously."

"If there are consecutive infringements then I think we have to be strong and say these are the steps that are taken - just like in society. We have laws throughout society. We know if we break the law what's going to happen. There are certain punishments and I think, for us in football, we need to adopt the same mentality."

Webb also backed comments made earlier by Blatter, that punishments for continued racist offences should, or could include points deductions or even relegation for the clubs involved.

"What we have been doing hasn't been working. The president obviously led the charge, the membership was very much supportive. The talking time (is over), it's time to put proper things in place," he said.

Asked if that meant clubs being relegated, he replied, "Yes it does."

(Editing by John Mehaffey)

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