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LaLiga calls for sanctioning powers to fight racism more effectively

LaLiga president Javier Tebas LaLiga president Javier Tebas

LaLiga is to request more sanctioning powers, with the aim of being more agile and effective in the fight against violence, racism, xenophobia, and intolerance in sport, where LaLiga has been leading the identification and reporting of such behaviour in football stadiums for years, but the organization feels powerless when observing how its reporting ends.

Despite its relentless fight against violence and racism to the full extent of its powers (which are currently, according to Spanish law, limited to identifying and reporting events), LaLiga feels tremendous frustration at the lack of sanctions and convictions handed out by the sports disciplinary bodies, public administrations and jurisdictional bodies to which it reports.

Faced with this serious situation, in the coming days LaLiga will formally request the amendment of Law 19/2007 of July 11, against violence, racism, xenophobia and intolerance in sport and Law 39/2022 of December 30, on sport.

The purpose of the proposal is to request that LaLiga have the ability to exercise disciplinary authority over incidents of this type which occur in LaLiga matches; for LaLiga’s disciplinary bodies to be able to sanction them, among other things, with the total or partial closure of stadiums, banning fans who are identified as instigators of such incidents, and the imposition of financial penalties, without prejudice to the adoption of provisional or precautionary measures that may be appropriate, depending on the nature and seriousness of the incidents.

As LaLiga has repeated in recent days, the organisation has been leading the fight against violence, racism and intolerance on football pitches, both inside and outside the stadium, identifying such behaviour through its Match Directors, security officers and television cameras, and subsequently reporting it to the relevant bodies.

LaLiga's legal action

Every week, LaLiga submits a letter to the RFEF's (Royal Spanish Football Federation) Competition Committee, and the State Commission against Violence, Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance in Sport highlighting any chants that occur at football matches that incite violence or contain insulting or intolerant content.

In addition, when insults are identified that could be classified as a hate crime, LaLiga also reports them to the Hate Prosecutor's Office. However, LaLiga has long observed with frustration the way in which these reports are dismissed before they even reach the courts, or how hate prosecutors in each region do not have a uniform criterion when it comes to classifying these acts. 

The reasons for the dismissal of these reports made by LaLiga are often surprising and perplexing:

“… from an examination of the defendant's social media accounts, it appears that the defendant is not a person who intends to incite racism, or that the gestures made were intended to achieve that end…”
“… the perpetrators have not been identified" by the police authorities.
“… the expression and sounds uttered, which are undoubtedly typical of foul and despicable attitudes, as well as being offensive and absolutely reprehensible, do not initially appear, in this case, to involve the public criminal dimension that is being claimed…”
“… are unpleasant, inappropriate and disrespectful, since they were made in context of a football match with a huge rivalry, together with other derogatory or derisive references to that sporting competition, and in addition to their nature, they were not repeated beyond the two acts described above and lasted only a few seconds…”

That is why, some time ago, LaLiga decided to go one step further in its legal strategy and go directly to the courts. However, giving LaLiga greater sanctioning capacity would be an effective tool to boost the fight against racism in sport.

Summary of the cases reported and the judicial status of these cases:

Iñaki Williams in Barcelona: January 25, 2020, during RCD Espanyol de Barcelona vs Athletic Club held at the RCDE Stadium. In the 69th minute of the match, while Iñaki Williams was leaving the pitch, several fans shouted racist abuse.

Currently, both LaLiga and the Public Prosecutor's Office have already filed their indictments against the person responsible, with LaLiga requesting a two-year prison sentence, a 12-month fine, special disqualification from engaging in any profession related to sport for more than 10 years, and a stadium ban for a period of more than five years in addition to the prison sentence imposed, with Court of Instruction No.2 of Cornellá de Llobregat having already issued an order for the opening of the oral trial.

We are now waiting for the trial date to be set.

Vinicius Jr in Barcelona, October 24, 2021: In the case of Real Madrid player Vinicius Jr, LaLiga filed a report with the Hate Prosecutor's Office in Barcelona for the abuse he received during ElClasico at Camp Nou on October 24, 2021. LaLiga was notified by the Public Prosecutor's Office that the complaint had been dismissed " given that the authorities were unable to identify the perpetrators of the acts."

Vinicius Jr in Mallorca, March 14, 2022: LaLiga filed a complaint with the Balearic Hate Prosecutor's Office for racist abuse against the player during the RCD Mallorca vs Real Madrid match on March 14, 2022 at the Estadio de Son Moix. In this case, the reason for the Prosecutor's Office's dismissal of the case was because "the expression and sounds uttered, undoubtedly typical of foul and despicable attitudes, as well as being offensive and absolutely reprehensible, do not initially appear to have, in this case, the public criminal dimension that is being claimed."

Nico Williams in Seville, March 13, 2022: Meanwhile, Nico Williams, brother of Iñaki and also an Athletic Club player, received racist abuse on March 13, 2022 at the Estadio Benito Villamarín, during the Real Betis vs Athletic Club match, which was also reported by LaLiga. This case was also closed by the Seville Hate Prosecutor's Office because "despite not having made a statement, from an examination of the defendant's social media accounts, it appears that the defendant is not a person who intends to incite racism, or that the gestures made were intended to achieve this end. The consideration of criminal justice as a last resort leads us to consider that, despite their incorrectness, they do not go beyond the line of criminal offence."

Carlos Akapo in Granada, February 28, 2022: LaLiga acted in the same way in the case of Carlos Akapo, then a Cádiz CF player, who also suffered racist abuse at the Estadio de los Cármenes during the match against Granada CF on February 28, 2022. Granada CF identified the fan, who also voluntarily turned himself in to the police. 

As a result of LaLiga's report, the Hate Crime Prosecutor's Office filed a complaint with the Granada Court of Instruction. At present, the person responsible for the insults has already testified before the Court of Instruction No.2 of Granada, and in the near future Akapo will also testify.

Vinicius Jr in Madrid, September 18, 2022: Racist abuse was also reported against Vinicius Jr on September 18, 2022 inside and outside the Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, before and during Atlético de Madrid vs Real Madrid. The case was closed by the Hate Prosecutor's Office because "there is no concrete act to be attributed to a specific person and once the insults of a racist nature have been contextualised, they do not constitute a crime against the dignity of the person concerned under Article 510.2 a) of the Criminal Code. And this on the basis that they are unpleasant, inappropriate, and disrespectful, since they were made on the occasion of an extremely heated football match, with other derogatory or insulting references to the sporting competition, together with the fact that they were not repeated beyond the two acts described above and lasted only a few seconds".

Vinicius Jr in Valladolid, December 30, 2022: In the case of insults directed at Vinicius Jr. in Real Valladolid's home stadium, LaLiga filed a complaint with the Anti-Violence Commission, the RFEF's Competition Committee and before the Court of Instruction No.4 of Valladolid. Criminal proceedings have been opened after a number of perpetrators were identified. Real Valladolid opened proceedings against the 11 people identified in accordance with the application of its internal rules. At a legal level, LaLiga is a party to the proceedings as a prosecutor, and various court orders have currently been issued.

Vinicius Jr in Madrid, January 26, 2023. In this case, a banner and effigy of the player appeared on the Valdebebas bridge in Madrid prior to the Real Madrid vs Atlético de Madrid Copa del Rey match: LaLiga filed a complaint with the Court of Instruction No.28 of Madrid. The judiciary is working to identify those responsible, and the case has been declared confidential by the examining Court of Instruction.

Vinicius Jr in Mallorca, February 5, 2023: Complaint filed following the abuse of Vinicius Jr by a fan in the stands at Estadi Mallorca Son Moix. Admitted for processing and opening of proceedings by the Court of Instruction No.3 of Palma de Mallorca.

The proposed sanction of the State Anti-Violence Commission is a fine of 4,000 euros and a 12-month ban on access to sports venues.

After identifying LaLiga and RCD Mallorca the perpetrator of the racist insults against Vinicius Jr in Mallorca (the same person responsible for racist abuse in Mallorca - Villarreal match against Samuel Chukwueze on February 18), a new report has been filed in the Courts of Instruction of Palma de Mallorca. RCD Mallorca has banned the identified supporters.

On April 4, 2023 Vinicius Jr testified in court, following a report by LaLiga.

Vinicius Jr in Pamplona, February 18, 2023: LaLiga reports racist chants against Vinicius in the stands of CA Osasuna’s home stadium to the Courts of Instruction of Pamplona in order to identify the perpetrator. The complaint was brought before the Court of Instruction No.4, which has ordered various investigative measures.

Samuel Chukwueze in Mallorca, February 18, 2023: LaLiga files report after identifying the perpetrator of racist insults against Samuel Chukwueze (Feb 18th, 2023) and Vinicius Jr (Feb 5, 2023). At the request of LaLiga, the Court has deferred to the Court of Instruction No.3 of Mallorca, which is investigating the facts relating to the player Vinicius Jr.

Vinicius Jr in Seville, March 5, 2023: Real Betis vs Real Madrid match. LaLiga files a report with the Courts of Instruction in Seville following the detection of racist abuse against Vinicius Jr in one of the stands of the stadium. The report has been lodged with the Court of Instruction No.15 of Seville.

Vinicius Jr in Barcelona, March 19, 2023: FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid. LaLiga files a report with the Courts of Instruction of Barcelona for racist insults against Vinicius Jr at the Camp Nou. The report was lodged with the Court of Instruction No.13 of Barcelona. At the court's request, LaLiga has since filed a further report and lodged bail in order to be able to prosecute the case.