[REF WATCH] I praise AC Milan players who walked off the field in reaction to racists chants during a friendly earlier this month. I’m befuddled that FIFA President Sepp Blatter criticized their reaction. My concern is that referees are not reacting correctly when this kind of situation occurs.
Law 5 empowers referees to abandon a match for whatever reason. Also, to stop a match due to spectator interference or any problem in spectator areas.
In the history of the game I am not aware of any attempt to control the conduct of spectators, but I believe referees can be provided with a means of communication to assist them when facing racism or other excessive abuse. My suggestion would be to try the following;
a) advise captains to report any complaint, by players, at any time during the referee's jurisdiction of a match,
b) if satisfied the complaint appears genuine, appeal for Fair Play by displaying a BLUE card to the source of abuse (or, to all spectators, if considered desirable),
c) if further complaints arise, then display a YELLOW card to all spectators, to announce a caution against continued interference with the conduct of play. Inform the captains that, if you decide to stop the match, they are to evacuate their players as quickly as possible.
d) if these appeals do not work, then display a RED card to all spectators, signifying abandonment of the match and evacuate players from the field of play. Leave the field, with your assistants, after the players.
At any subsequent commission of inquiry the referees procedure would assist in deciding suitable action. There should be no room for a plea of extenuating circumstances to avoid forfeiting the match by the club responsible for spectator control.
(As an active referee for 25 years, Stanley Lover officiated over 1,000 soccer games at all levels including international European Cup games. He has held many leadership positions including President of the Football League Referees Association and The London Referees Society. Lover is the author of SOCCER RULES ILLUSTRATED (Triumph Books, Chicago); in print more than 40 years. His latest publication is a two-part guide. For greater enjoyment of the game SOCCER FAN simplifies the rules of play and Key Fair Play Partnersproposes practical actions for 10 major elements, to stimulate fair play. The Kindle ebooks are available at Amazon.com for $2.99.)