Blog Sports Law 12th Jun 2024

Prosecutions for racist abuse: the Spanish experience

Sarah Przybylska considers the prosecution of three Valencia supporters for their racist abuse of a Real Madrid player

The 2HC Sports Law team have kept a close eye on developments in combatting racism in football.  Following UEFA’s decision to ban the Slavia Prague player Ondřej Kúdela for only ten matches for racial abuse of Rangers’ Glen Kamara in 2021, Brian O’Neill KC & Paul Renteurs argued that criminal prosecution was both possible and desirable.  Last year, Paul reviewed the extended scope of football banning orders following the prosecution of a man who racially abused Brentford’s Ivan Toney on social media.

In England and Wales racist abuse at football matches has long been the subject of prosecution.  The UK Football Policing Unit are regrettably busy and the CPS too have a specialist unit dedicated to prosecuting racist language in person and online. Earlier this year a Liverpool man was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment for racially-aggravated harassment and failure to comply with a football banning order after he shouted racist abuse at a Forest Green Rovers player at a League One match. Another Liverpool man was imprisoned for 15 weeks and given a football banning order for malicious communications after posting racial abuse about a fellow Everton fan.

Now the Spanish are, somewhat belatedly, following the growing trend for pursuing racist fans in the criminal courts.  Three Valencia supporters chanted racist abuse at Real Madrid’s Vinícius Jr during a game last year.  The player had previously accused La Liga of failing to address racist abuse on social media.  This time La Liga and Real Madrid jointly pursued a criminal complaint against the supporters.

The men were prosecuted under Article 173.1 of the Criminal Code for inflicting a degrading treatment on another person, seriously damaging their moral integrity.  The maximum sentence is two years’ imprisonment.  Commission of a criminal offence for racist reasons is a statutory aggravating factor.  The three accepted criminal responsibility and wrote a public letter of apology to Vinícius and to the public at large and were sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment, reduced to eight, with a football banning order.

This was the first conviction in Spain for racist abuse in football and it is to be hoped that it will act as a deterrent for those who continue to sully ‘the beautiful game’.


Sarah Przybylska


Categories: Blog