England Under 21’s match in Serbia. The veteran forward believes that UEFA has failed to properly deal with past cases of racism at international matches which has allowed for racist behaviour to continue.
England’s black players, most notably Danny Rose, were subject to monkey-chanting and missile throwing from the Serbian crowd throughout the game, followed by a violent confrontation with the Serbian squad and management at the full time whistle.
In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live immediately after the game, Roberts said: “I was absolutely fuming at what I saw. To think this was an England Under-21 game and another generation of players is seeing this sort of behaviour makes me very sad and makes me aware of the fact we haven’t moved far enough.
“Everyone says UEFA needs to be stronger, do this and do that. They’ve shown they have no stomach for this battle. They haven’t taken it on in the past. I doubt they will now with paltry fines and slapping on the wrists.”
In recent years, UEFA have handed out small penalty fines to countries that have failed to control their racist fans. In 2004, Spain were fined £44,750 for racist chanting and another £40,000 during Euro 2012. Bulgaria were fined £34,000 in 2010 for racist chanting and Croatia were fined £10,000 in 2008 for fans displaying racist banners. In 2007, Serbia were fined £16,500 for racist chants toward Nedum Onuoha however the punishment has clearly not acted as a sufficient deterrent to Serbian fans or the Serbian football authority.
“So that’s why it’s time for players to take action. I’ll go one further and say players should walk off the pitch because – guaranteed – if that happened, things would change.
“The (official UEFA) match report doesn’t even mention what happened. I think that just shows they would like to sweep it under the carpet and make out we don’t have these problems in football when clearly we do,” Roberts added.