In a time where racism has appeared to have reared its ugly head in the English game once again following Sky Sports News’ extended reports into the subject, Liverpool have written formally to Zenit St Petersburg ahead of their Europa League last 32 tie in Russia as fears of potential racist abuse grow according to BBC Sport.
Ever since the draw was made in December there has been a sense of unease surrounding the behaviour and attitude of Zenit St Petersburg’s fans following a Zenit ‘supporters’ group claiming that non-white and homosexual players should be excluded from the Zenit first team. Liverpool having been under the microscope in the last twelve months following the racial incident between Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra will be eager to avoid any further incidents with regards to this matter.
Liverpool’s Managing Director Ian Ayre has confirmed that Liverpool Football Club has indeed written to their Russian opponents ahead of Thursday’s tie at the Petrovsky Stadium to express the club’s fears over potential racist abuse. A similar letter has also been written to UEFA but with FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s comments on the issue of racism thus far it is difficult to see the governing body of European Football posing significant enough sanctions on the Russian giants.
Ian Ayre went on to say “I’d much rather we take the incident off the pitch and we deal with it. But we’ll be briefing our players on what’s acceptable and what’s not.” which leads us to believe that should any racial abuse occur there is unlikely to be a ‘walk-0ff’ similar to that of Kevin Prince Boateng of AC Milan when he was racially abused during a friendly against Pro Patria in January.
In a time when racism has become all to frequent an occurrence in recent months, one hopes yet sadly doesn’t expect the tie between Liverpool and Zenit on Thursday will pass without tension and incident. The authorities must be aware of the potential for racial abuse on Thursday and must be as a result prepared with how to deal with in the aftermath. In this particular instance it seems very much as if it is a problem not with Zenit as a club but rather their supporters.
Ian Ayre confirmed he would be travelling to St Petersburg with the club on Thursday for the first leg of their round of 32 Europa League tie and said “he will ensure Liverpool Football Club would take a strong stance should anything occur” before making clear it will be the referees responsibility to act should anything occur at pitch level.
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