PARIS (AP) — A week after UEFA opened disciplinary proceedings against both Serbia and England, Michel Platini said Tuesday that the governing body of European football is doing its utmost to combat racism.
"We have a lot of associations that we finance and that we help to fight racism," said Platini, the president of UEFA. "It's not an easy issue, but we are doing everything in our power to eradicate racism in our stadiums."
England under-21 defender Danny Rose complained of racial abuse during last Tuesday's match, saying that trouble had been brewing throughout the evening. He was sent off after kicking a ball into the stands after the final whistle, and gestured to the crowd that he had been racially abused.
Following the match, the British government demanded strong sanctions against Serbia. And besides UEFA's disciplinary proceedings against both Serbia and England, a police probe was ordered from Belgrade after racist chanting and brawls at the match.
"Concerning the under-21 game between Serbia, we will receive the report from the delegates, the report from the officials, from the people who were there. We have television images," Platini said. "The disciplinary committee will deal with it."
The Serbs were charged by UEFA with misconduct over the racial abuse hurled at England players from before kickoff. But both federations face action for "improper conduct" over the scuffles that broke out on the field after the match, which England won 1-0 to secure qualification for the 2013 European Under-21 Championship.
The cases will be heard by UEFA's control and disciplinary board on Nov. 22.
"We often have important cases in quite a few countries. We try and fight against that," Platini said. "It's a real fight that we've been leading for many years."
The bitterness between England and Serbia was emphasized by their respective statements, with the English Football Association saying it might decline to send teams to the Balkan nation in the future. The Serbians emphatically denied racism and denounced the visiting players.
The FA was backed by the British government. Sports minister Hugh Robertson wrote to Platini to demand tough sanctions.
"The Sports Minister asked me to do something," Platini said. "I answered him as I've just said: which is that we are fighting racism. We are doing a lot of things. The disciplinary committee will decide."
In 2007, UEFA fined Serbia €24,000 (then $32,600) after its players and fans hurled racist abuse during another under-21 game against England. Platini hinted that, this time, the punishment might be more severe than a financial slap on the wrist.
"More than a year ago we gave a serious yellow card to Croatia and to Serbia, and we will see what the disciplinary committee decides," Platini said. "But it's true that it's a problem that concerns us enormously. It's difficult to remove all of that from the stadiums. It's not easy, but we're doing what we can."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.