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Racist abuse of players could see teams forfeit games, says FIFA boss Gianni Infantino

AC Milan's Mike Maignan talks to referee Fabio Maresca after allegedly being racially abused (REUTERS)
AC Milan's Mike Maignan talks to referee Fabio Maresca after allegedly being racially abused (REUTERS)

Fans who commit racist abuse at football matches could see their teams automatically forfeit games as a result, FIFA president Gianni Infantino has suggested.

Both AC Milan and Coventry City players reported racist abuse at games on Saturday. At Udinese, Milan's players walked off the pitch after goalkeeper Mike Maignan was subjected to monkey noises from a section of the crowd at the Stadio Friuli.

Coventry's match at Sheffield Wednesday was stopped for several minutes after Kasey Palmer said he received similar abuse during their 2-1 win, and Infantino says there should be further punishments beyond the current deterrents.

"As well as the three-step process (match stopped, match re-stopped, match abandoned), we have to implement an automatic forfeit for the team whose fans have committed racism and caused the match to be abandoned, as well as worldwide stadium bans and criminal charges for racists," he said in a FIFA post on X.

"FIFA and football shows full solidarity to victims of racism and any form of discrimination. Once and for all: No to racism! No to any form of discrimination!

"The events that took place in Udine and Sheffield on Saturday are totally abhorrent and completely unacceptable. The players affected by Saturday's events have my undivided support.

"We need ALL the relevant stakeholders to take action, starting with education in schools so that future generations understand that this is not part of football or society."

Maignan said something had to change as racist abuse has been part of football for too long.

"This shouldn't exist in the world of football, but unfortunately for many years this is a recurrence," he told Milan TV after confirming he heard fans making monkey noises.

"With all the cameras present and sanctions for these things, something must be done to change things. We all have to react, we must do something because you can't play like this."

Milan and city rivals Inter have both publicly supported Maignan, Serie A said it "condemns all forms of racism", while France striker Kylian Mbappe said "enough is enough".

"You are very far from being alone Mike Maignan. We are all with you. Still the same problems and still NO solution. Enough is enough. NO TO RACISM," Mbappe posted on X.

Former England and Arsenal striker Ian Wright applauded the "solidarity" in the Milan side and urged teams to "keep walking off" when they hear abuse and called for stronger sanctions.

He wrote on X: "We did 'playing through it' and nothing has changed. Points deductions needed, the fines are pointless."

However, Coventry midfielder Palmer admitted he was sceptical things would change in the game, also writing on X: "Racism is a disgrace... it has no place in the world, let alone football.

"I'm black and proud and I am raising my three kids to be the exact same. I'll be honest, it feels like things will never change, no matter how hard we try.

"Couple fans doing monkey chants don't define a fan base - I appreciate all the love and support I've received."

Coventry owner Doug King and manager Mark Robins condemned the abuse and offered their full support to Palmer, while Sheffield Wednesday said they were "shocked and saddened" by the alleged incident and anyone found culpable will face "the strictest possible sanctions from both Sheffield Wednesday and the law".

Anti-discrimination organisation Kick It Out commended Maignan and Palmer for their "courage".

"Now it's up to authorities and clubs to punish those responsible, but if clubs cannot prevent this happening, they too should face consequences," it said in a statement on X.

"We welcome stronger and more meaningful punishments, as called for by FIFA. It cannot be on the players to solve this.

"They are already showing courage under extreme distress and emotional trauma. They need support with actions not words."

Additional reporting by Press Association.