Udinese hand supporter life ban for racist abuse of AC Milan keeper Mike Maignan

By Sports Desk January 22, 2024

Udinese have banned for life a supporter found to have used discriminatory behaviour towards AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan.

The Serie A club, which are working to track down further offenders, said the sanction against the individual identified by staff and police using security cameras at the Bluenergy Stadium would take immediate effect.

An investigation was launched after France international Maignan left the pitch during the first half of Saturday’s 3-2 win in Udine, having apparently indicated to referee Fabio Maresca that he had heard racist abuse from the crowd.

A statement from Udinese said: “In a joint effort with the local police authorities and utilising the Bluenergy Stadium security cameras, Udinese Calcio has identified the first individual responsible for discriminatory behaviour towards AC Milan player Mike Maignan.

“This person will face a lifetime ban from attending any Udinese Calcio matches. This ban is effective immediately.

“We believe that such strong measures are necessary to send a clear message that racism has no place in football or society. Udinese Calcio stands firmly against any form of discrimination and we are determined to create an inclusive and respectful environment within our football community.

“We thank the authorities for their cooperation and together we will continue to work tirelessly in order to identify and punish other individuals who were involved in this incident and that tarnish the sporting ethics of the club, the region, the city of Udine and a fan base that has always been a model of integration and respect.

“We want to ensure that our stadium remains a space where everyone, regardless of their ethnicity, background, culture, and language is able to enjoy the beautiful game without fear of discrimination.

“Udinese Calcio calls on all football stakeholders to unite in the fight against racism and discrimination, fostering an environment that celebrates diversity and promotes inclusion.”

Speaking after the game, which restarted after a delay of around 10 minutes, Maignan told Milan TV: “I heard them making monkey noises. After it happened a second time, I went to the dugout to inform them of what had happened behind the goal.

“This shouldn’t exist in the world of football, but unfortunately for many years this is a recurrence. We all have to react, we must do something because you can’t play like this.”

The incident in Italy came on the same day that Coventry midfielder Kasey Palmer reported he had been abused by Sheffield Wednesday supporters in his team’s Championship fixture at Hillsborough, prompting claims from Professional Footballers’ Association chair Omar Beckles that players do not believe the football authorities have put in place strong enough deterrents to combat racism.

Beckles said: “Our members want to see real, consistent and significant consequences for racist abuse, both for the individuals who are responsible and for clubs who fail to get a grip of the issue within their stadiums.

“The reality is that players don’t believe this is happening. The responsibility for what happens next lies with the authorities.”

Beckles said the PFA had been working closely with referees’ body Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) to give insights from a player’s perspective on protocols for dealing with racist incidents.

He added: “We’ve encouraged players, when they are aware of racial abuse, to take control of the situation by delaying restarts, free-kicks, and throw-ins.

“A stoppage in play – however long it takes – forces a response. It creates a window to alert match officials and gives the best chance of identifying those responsible.

“However, without action, the protocols are useless.”

Speaking specifically about Palmer’s experience, Beckles said: “Kasey Palmer deserves to be commended for his exemplary behaviour and measured response in an extremely challenging situation.

“Those responsible for this incident were recorded and they must be identified. They should face criminal charges and a ban from football.”

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has suggested clubs whose fans are guilty of such abuse be subject to automatic forfeits.

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