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Questions about racism dominate Euro 2012 kick-off

Referees allowed to abandon matches because of unruly fans.
Michel platini euro racismEnlarge
UEFA president Michel Platini speaks to media at the UEFA 2012 kick-off press conference at Warsaw National Stadium on June 6, 2012, in Poland. (Handout/AFP/Getty Images)

Euro 2012 referees have the power to abandon matches plagued by racist fans, but players won’t have the same luxury, UEFA president Michel Platini said today as Europe prepares to begin its soccer championship on Friday.

Questions about racism dominated a press conference today in Warsaw designed to kick off the 16-team, month-long tournament in Ukraine and Poland.

“Referees can finish the game. They have this power in case of racism,” Platini told the BBC. “That is, I think, the best way to protect the game against racism.”

A BBC documentary called “Stadiums of Hate” that showed numerous instances of neo-Nazi and racist incidents in Poland and Ukraine triggered widespread media attention.

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A high-profile former English player suggested fans stay home, and Italian striker Mario Balotelli said he would “kill” anyone who taunted him with racism.

Balotelli later backed down, saying he would just walk off the pitch.

That’s not the proper course of action, Platini told The Daily Mail.

“If a player left the field on his own, he would get a yellow card,” Platini said. “It’s not Mr. Balotelli who’s in charge of refereeing; it’s the referee who makes these decisions.”

UEFA enlisted Football against Racism in Europe (FARE) to help monitor stadia, The Associated Press said.

The group has 31 experts helping root out racist banners, slogans, songs or chants that violate UEFA’s anti-discrimination policies.

“There is no question we are worried about this tournament more than any other,” FARE director Piara Powar said, according to the AP.

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