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FIFA Urges Leagues To ‘Use Common Sense’ Dealing With Player Protests

FIFA has urged football leagues around the world to “use common sense” when dealing with players who protest against the death of George Floyd during games, when deciding whether to punish players.

After the death of Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis last week sparked protests and riots in the United States and around the world, Borussia Dortmund players Jadon Sancho and Achraf Hakimi showed ‘Justice for George Floyd’ messages on their shirts when celebrating goals in a Bundesliga match.

In separate matches, Schalke’s Weston McKennie wore an armband with the message, while Borussia Monchengladbach player, Marcus Thuram, took a knee after scoring in support of the protests.

Sancho received a yellow card booking for removing his shirt during the game, which led to the German Football Association (DFB) saying it would examine the incidents to see whether sanctions were necessary for the players involved.

An official statement from FIFA said competition organisers should understand the context of the George Floyd case and worldwide events in applying ‘the Laws of the Game’.

“FIFA fully understands the depth of sentiment and concerns expressed by many footballers in light of the tragic circumstances of the George Floyd case,” the FIFA statement read.

“FIFA had repeatedly expressed itself to be resolutely against racism and discrimination of any kind and recently strengthened its own disciplinary rules with a view to helping to eradicate such behaviours.

“FIFA itself has promoted many anti-racism campaigns which frequently carry the anti-racism message at matches organised under its own auspices.

“The application of the Laws of the Game approved by the IFAB [International Football Association Board] is left for the competition organisers which should use common sense and have in consideration the context surrounding the events,” the statement said.

DFB sporting director of elite referees, Michael Frohlich, said it is not easy for officials to decide on how to manage political messaging during a game.

“It is hardly possible for referees to register political, religious or personal slogans, messages or images during a game,” Frohlich said.

“It isn’t the same as referees examining that the equipment’s colours match, for example.

“Should the referee notice a political or religious message on the player’s equipment, they make a note of it in their match report.

“An exception is when the player’s actions have an immediate impact on the game, such as delaying the restart of play, which the referee can punish with a yellow card,” he said.

DFB vice-president, Rainer Koch, added there is room before and after matches for political statements.

“As is the case internationally, the game itself should remain free of political statements or messages of any kind; the fair and competitive action on the pitch should be the focus,” Koch said.

“There are of course opportunities before and after the match for these kinds of things.

“We’ll have to wait and see whether sanctions are required in these instances,” he said.

The support for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in the football world was extended with both the entire Chelsea and Liverpool squads taking a knee during training sessions, with the images being posted to the club’s respective social media channels.