There's been a huge backlash towards UEFA after they fined Nicklas Bendtner £80,000 for showing Paddy Power sponsored boxer shorts during a goal celebration. Nobody seems to like UEFA, often with good reason, and the reaction built steam and turned into a attack on UEFA's pitiful attempts at tackling racism.
Yet the two situations aren't linked, just because UEFA makes a hash of one thing then we can't want them to make a hash of everything. What Bendtner did was wrong, he advertised a betting company on his boxer shorts whilst representing his national team.
It's not the end of the world and nobody has been hurt or even offended but it still needed tackling and UEFA had to make sure a clear message was sent out to ensure it doesn't happen often. We all get annoyed by the growing commercialisation of football, it's a money game as much as it is a ball game these days and we rightly get irritated when another little bit of the sport turns into a marketing opportunity.
If Bendtner wasn't harshly punished then what do we see next? Let's say nothing happened and Wayne Rooney got a call this morning offering him a ridiculous amount to advertise a product if he scored a goal tonight. Would we be seeing things like this in the future...
A fine and a ban was needed. A ban alone may make some players think it was financially worthwhile and a fine can never be sure to hurt a professional footballer. It's not something football needs and although it may seem a bit of a laugh, it's one that had to be tackled.
Praising UEFA isn't something which comes easily but they've handled the Bendtner situation correctly and faced widespread criticism for doing so. The gist being that because their fines for racist incidents seem paltry in comparison it shows where their priorities lie. But this is a situation that can almost certainly be solved with a huge fine and short ban, racism probably isn't.
Does anybody seriously think that the kind of person who does monkey chants at a black player whilst watching their national team could care less what their FA are fined? That people who clearly have questionable morals and no concern how they damage the image of their country, will suddenly feel remorse if their national football association is fined £100k, £250k, £500k?
Like many football fans they probably have a long term dislike of the football authorities in their country and the fine could be seen as an added bonus. And surely the whole point of tackling racism is to deal with it, and not simply to be seen to be doing something publicly about it.
Fines may make the association more determined to catch the offenders but when it's hundreds, perhaps thousands, then it's clearly a deeper issue and banning 50 people here or there will probably see them partially replaced by individuals who agree with their warped viewpoints.
Fines become sound bites and UEFA could come and relieve the Croatian and Spanish FAs, for example, of a quarter of a million of their hardest earned shiny coins, for the treatment towards Balotelli and everyone would pat them on the back, but would it take a great leap to solving the issue? On it's own it wouldn't come close.
There will be fans who happily watch club teams who have sections of racist fans who monkey chant on occasion, it happens in La Liga and Serie A with the biggest clubs. This isn't something which needs dealing selectively but something that needs constant and consistent action.
We can't only care once every two years when it happens at a major championship and there's more publicity, that would be doing something for the cameras. UEFA aren't doing enough to tackle racism, FIFA aren't, many associations aren't, and a new plan is needed to actually work to solving it, however long that may take, rather than getting column inches about 'tough action'.
Of course, there's only so much football can do and the sport can't be held responsible for healing societies ills but they certainly need to do what they can. And that's where we all come in, we can actually help.
The condemnation from our media and fans, through social networks, of actual racist incidents during this tournament has been huge. Going back to sponsorship, how many big commercial names want to be associated with racism or similar? Public power is huge on this one.
There's also the shame angle, the Spanish press were so furious when their English counterparts highlighted racism towards Mario Balotelli, they accused them of inventing it. They said there were no monkey chants at all and that anything witnesses heard was simply fans shouting 'Tonto! Tonto!' which means 'Fool! Fool!'. They didn't want the associated shame and criticism which hits home more to Joe Public then an FA getting a hefty fine.
Racism doesn't sell, the vast majority of people don't want their country labelled as racist. If there's a magic wand then I don't know what it is but huge fines to steal headlines isn't the answer, it just not as simple as that.
This was penned by Annie Eaves, follow her on Twitter @AnnieEaves and get irrationality upset when she disagrees with you.
A couple of niggles with your piece, Annie......
If Bendtner wasn't harshly punished then what do we see next?'
Harshly punished? PP have come out today to say they're paying Bendtner's fine - so all he's received is a one match ban, effectively. A harsh punishment would be something that affects him personally & harshly - by declaring they're paying the fine, PP have kept the publicity bandwagon rolling. And a one match ban? Pah!
Secondly, PP have garnered free publicity worth probably in excess of £5m - and will continue to get that publicity as long as journos use the picture of Bendtner in said pants.
Not sure where you get £5m from Pam, but anyway...
To ban him for a game is harsh, it could affect his country's prospects of qualifying for the World Cup because he'll miss what will be a crucial match against Czech Republic. That's why a fine and bane is needed.
Don't think anyone else will be copying him any time soon and the purpose of punishment in this case is surely showing players that it'll cost them, ban and fine.
You can't hurt players in the pocket anymore, when the fines system hasn;t increased in 20 years lol... you hurt player by not letting them play... their actions mean they can't take their place in the team... it is the players fault and completely fair if players want to try and make money whilst competing for their country.
I got the £5m from a pal who is a creative director at a major PR firm......so I didn't pluck the figure out of thin air. :)
Not far off thin air to be fair then ;)
Actually I sense a Paddy Power backlash, usually happens with these things doesn't it. Their statement assumes everyone reading it is incredibly stupid, and whilst many are, others are getting irritated.
Clever piece, nice...
You're right about the stealth advertising... and there is no way the Pukka Pie England Band should be allowed in the stadium... any stadium... anywhere...
On the racism front i do think football has a responsibility to punish the football team for their fans behaviour... It happened in the past in domestic football... Spain have now had enough incidents of this abuse, it's a simple solution 3 strikes and buh bye from the tournament you currently competeing in (be it qualification of actual at the tournament proper)... and this roles over and accumulates... I don't care if Spain are an incredible football team, what their fans did was disgusting and blatantly wrong... I saw your tweet the other day about nalbandian and it being acceptable in Argentina... Social differences... very funny, on a serious side however, there is no place, in any society for what the spain fans are doing... and lets not pretend this is 10 or 20 fans, this is hundreds of fans if not a thousands in unison... and on many occasions.. in domestic and international football #DISGRACEFUL
Punish the team, don't let them play and the fans will soon realise they have to behave...
I suspect Uefa will still find the England fans guilty (even though the over whelming evidence suggests what was accused simply wasn't what happened) and will get a harsher punishment...
Though I agree with you about Bendtner needing to be punished and dealt with and that those few idiots out there that decide monkey chants is acceptable wont be bothered by fines to their national teams or local teams it can be tackled. Those clubs and countries found guilty of allowing racist fans to abuse opposition players should be kicked out of big competitions fined heavily and forced to play all their games behind closed doors. This would encourage them to weed out the undesirable few. We are able to highlight those who cause acts of hooliganism and the such so it should be easy enough to spot or single out mindless racist idiots. Racism is unacceptable and all clubs and countries should be aware that the repercussions of allowing their fans to act this way are many and far reaching.