Lazio fined $190K for fans' racist abuse
NYON, Switzerland (AP)
Lazio has avoided being ordered by UEFA to play a Europa League match in an empty stadium despite a third conviction for racist abuse by fans this season.
UEFA said on Wednesday it fined Lazio ?140,000 ($190,000) and deferred a stadium closure ''for a probationary period of two years.''
Lazio was found guilty of racist behavior among a range of offenses relating to its home match against Tottenham in Rome on Nov. 22 and a game in Slovenia against Maribor on Dec. 6.
In addition to chants, Lazio fans displayed a ''Free Palestine'' banner at the Olympic Stadium, taunting Tottenham which traditionally draws fans from London's Jewish community.
UEFA previously fined the Italian club ?40,000 (then $52,300) for its fans' racist behavior when it first played Tottenham, in London in September.
Lazio has earned ?2.6 million ($3.53 million) in UEFA bonuses and prize money by winning its Europa League group. It can get further payments from UEFA for advancing through knockout rounds, and the club will also collect a share of Italian broadcasting revenues for the competition.
UEFA's disciplinary panel ruling will stir further debate on the severity of sanctions for incidents involving racism and discrimination inside stadiums.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter has said clubs and national teams should have points deducted as a deterrent.
Still, FIFA did not deduct World Cup qualifying points from Bulgaria and Hungary this month when judging racist abuse cases. Both teams will play their next home qualifier in an empty stadium.
Lazio next plays at home in the Europa League on Feb. 21 against Borussia Moenchengladbach, in the second leg of a last-32 meeting.
UEFA also fined Tottenham ?10,000 ($13,570) and Maribor ?17,000 ($23,070) for crowd disturbances at the same matches.
The clubs can challenge all sanctions at UEFA's appeals panel.
UEFA acted on the second Lazio-Tottenham match after receiving reports from the English Football Association and the European fans' network, FARE, which sends monitors to high-risk games.
The match, which ended 0-0, was played amid tension after attacks on Tottenham fans in a bar in central Rome the previous night.