VIENNA (Reuters) - UEFA has been left to fend for itself in the battle against racism, violence and match-fixing and needs more help from government authorities, its president Michel Platini said on Tuesday.
The Frenchman said that a rise in nationalism and extremism in Europe was being reflected in stadiums and that, after several recent incidents of fan violence, European soccer was risking a return to the dark days of the 1980s.
“There are battles that never end, where we cannot ever lower our guard,” Platini said in his opening speech to the UEFA Congress.
“I am thinking here of... our efforts to stamp out match-fixing, doping, violence, racism and other forms of discrimination.
“In recent months, we have all been struck by certain images that I thought were a thing of the past.
“Some of us experienced that past at first hand. In my case, it was exactly 30 years ago,” said Platini, referring to the 1985 Heysel stadium disaster at the European Cup final in Brussels where 39 people were killed when a wall collapsed after Liverpool fans charged Juventus supporters.
“In these battles that we are fighting, we feel as if we have been left to fend for ourselves somewhat,” said Platini who played for Juventus that day.
“And yet, these are battles that can only be won with the help of the public authorities. We are not legislators, judges or police officers.
“I therefore renew my call for greater awareness of this issue among the public authorities, so that we can avoid reliving the dark days of a not-so-distant past — a past where hooligans and all manner of fanatics called the shots in certain European stadiums.
“We need tougher stadium bans at European level and — I will say it again — the creation of a European sports police force.”
Platini, who was standing unopposed for a third term as president later in the day, promised to make UEFA more democratic and allow representatives of players, clubs and leagues to sit at the “top table”.
“It is time to invite some or all of those branches of the family to join us at the top table — the balance in terms of representation being yet to be decided,” he said.
He added: “I regard myself as a simple team-mate — at most your captain. But not the captain of a ship that is being battered by a storm, clinging to the helm for dear life.
“I am simply the captain of a winning team.”
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly