UEFA And The Battle For Free Speech
Having fully digested events since the original news broke of UEFA’s fining Dundalk £18,000 for infringing upon Article 16 (2) of the Disciplinary Rules (relating to flags that have been deemed by UEFA to be inappropriate) I can’t seem to get away from the idea that European football’s governing body have, once again, got away with veritable murder.
Whilst all and sundry attempt to lay the entire blame at the door of a certain section of idiots within the Dundalk fan-base, UEFA’s fickle application of their own rules gets swept under the carpet.
Were Dundalk fans in the wrong for repeatedly taking out the Palestinian flag when told not to? Of course they were. No one is arguing they weren’t. Dundalk FC has been fined for the actual appearance of the flags, not for the fans disobeying the official.
However that seems to have glossed over the original problem in that an internationally recognised state’s flag, with no illicit message of any kind on it, was deemed inappropriate. Why: because it was considered a political statement by the UEFA official in question.
Why then, is the Catalan flag erected for every game at Camp Nou, not also deemed a political statement? The fight for Catalan independence has been a major issue in Spain now for years. How can UEFA deem one appropriate and another not? There are examples of political statements in football stadiums all over the continent.
Ajax, and to a lesser extent Spurs, are both known to fly Israeli flags and banners at their games in European competitions due to their Jewish connections. Why has this never been deemed ‘inappropriate’ by the governing body? One could argue it’s a case of a small club being made an example of and there is merit in that assertion but in reality, this is a much larger issue.
Michel Platini and his cohorts at UEFA seem to believe they can do whatever they like with no accountability at all. The capricious nature with which they apply their rules and administer fines relating to different offences is truly incomprehensible.
Consider the fact that in April 2012, FC Porto was fined just £16,700 for their fans racial abuse of then Man City striker Mario Balotelli. Compare that to a peaceful appearance of a national flag with no illicit message of any kind appearing on it garnering an even larger fine and the mind truly boggles as to what UEFA deem a more serious issue.
Whether they like it or not, football and politics will always be intrinsically linked. Their claim that it should have no part in the game goes against the very fibre of a lot of their actions.
Do they expect us to believe that Qatar being handed the 2022 World Cup wasn’t motivated by political and financial means?
Football fans are no different than the average person walking down the street. Just because you enter through those turnstiles does not mean your basic freedom of speech should be curtailed because a morally bankrupt organisation tries to impose its sketchy, inconsistent values onto you.
UEFA’s belligerent attitude towards anyone who challenges their authority, even in a peaceful way, should worry us far more than the bearing of a Palestinian flag.