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Kick It Out attacks 'cowardly decision' not to punish Cagliari for fans' racist abuse of Romelu Lukaku

Anti-discrimination campaigners outraged at Italian football chiefs after ruling that there was not enough evidence to sanction Serie A club
Anti-discrimination campaigners say Italian football chiefs 'are effectively endorsing' racist abuse after they failed to punish Cagliari for the chants aimed at Inter Milan forward Romelu Lukaku AFP

Kick It Out say it is "a cowardly decision" for the Italian Football Federation not to punish Cagliari after supporters allegedly aimed racist abuse at Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku.

Former Manchester United player Lukaku appeared to be subjected to monkey chants as he prepared to take – and then score – a match-winning penalty in Inter's 2-1 Serie A victory at the Sardegna Arena on September 1.

However, following an investigation the sporting justice panel of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) ruled that the chants could not be considered discriminatory in terms of their "scale and realisation", so therefore had decided not to apply sanctions to Cagliari.

Anti-discrimination campaigners Kick It Out were left stunned by Tuesday's ruling. They said: "This is a cowardly decision from Serie A and the Italian FA, in response to disgusting racist abuse aimed at Romelu Lukaku.

"Match officials ignored blatant monkey chants during the game, Cagliari have faced no punishment and we have no faith that Hellas Verona fans will be sanctioned for racially abusing Franck Kessie on Sunday.

"We can only assume that the Italian authorities do not care that they are effectively endorsing this behaviour, and creating a climate in which a pundit feels comfortable racially abusing Lukaku on live TV.

"As they refuse to take action against repeated racist abuse by the same group of supporters, it's about time Uefa stepped in and showed some leadership.

"The #EqualGame campaign means absolutely nothing if supporters are allowed to get away with this behaviour."

Cagliari police told FIGC investigators that "only on the occasion" of Lukaku's penalty were "chants, shouts and whistles aimed at the opposition athlete as he prepared to take his shot".

Individual spectators were observed chanting at the Belgian but, because of the volume of the noise emanating from the stand, it was not clear what was being said and so it could not be proven that it was discriminatory.

Piara Powar, executive director of the Fare anti-discriminatory body, told the BBC: "The rot is deep. We believe the Italian authorities and the disciplinary system is simply not fit for purpose.

"Whether it is the FIGC [Italian Football Federation] or Serie A, they have failed to protect countless players from racism over the past year and have no meaningful response to the endemic racism in stadiums.

"There are no visible campaigns, no progressive fan leaders, as well as apathy and prejudice among the media.

"No-one is taking the issue seriously – no-one apart from the players, the victims themselves, and a few allies who have been courageous enough to stand up."

In response, Serie A said it was "seriously and constantly engaged in activities against racism".

A day after the match in Cagliari, Lukaku took to social media to urge action against racism in football. He said: "Many players in the last month have suffered from racial abuse. I did yesterday too. Football is a game to be enjoyed and we shouldn't accept any form of discrimination that will put our game in shame.

"Ladies and gentlemen it's 2019 – instead of going forwards we're going backwards."

Updated: September 18, 2019 05:57 PM