FA introduces five-match minimum bans for racial abuse

Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra

Players found guilty of racially abusing an opponent will be suspended for a minimum of five matches, the Football Association has announced.

The same punishment will also apply in other discrimination cases, including religion, sexuality and disability.

A second offence will lead to an automatic minimum ban of 10 matches, in addition to any financial penalty.

European body Uefa last month proposed 10-game bans for those found guilty of racial abuse during its competitions.

The new disciplinary measures, which were agreed at the FA's annual general meeting on Thursday, will start from next season.

Levels of punishment will rise if there are "aggravating" factors.

Clubs may also be charged if two or more of their employees are sanctioned for discriminatory abuse in any 12-month period.

Charges will be brought in the event of discrimination on the field of play relating to ethnic origin, colour, race, religion or belief, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, ability and disability.

FA chairman David Bernstein said: "The FA remains committed to this vital agenda and we will contribute upwards of £4m to this ongoing work.

"Football is about inclusivity and we want everyone to be able to play the game in a safe and welcoming environment.

"We have consulted far and wide and the new sanction and education package has been agreed by all partners involved in the process, including the Professional Footballers' Association, the League Managers' Association, Premier League, Football League, referees and [anti-racism group] Kick It Out."

In addition to being suspended, offenders will also have to undergo mandatory education on anti-discrimination issues.

In deciding to impose five-match bans, the FA has chosen not to mirror Uefa, which has suggested minimum a 10-game ban for racial abuse in its competitions, such as the Champions League and the European Championship.

The FA has been increasingly under pressure to clarify its punishments for racial offences following high-profile cases involving Chelsea's John Terry and Liverpool's Luis Suarez.

Terry was handed a four-match ban and a £220,000 fine for racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand in October 2011, while Suarez received an eight-match suspension and a £40,000 fine for his abuse of Manchester United's Patrice Evra.

Speaking before the new punishments were announced, Lord Ouseley, the chairman of Kick It Out, said the FA would "look stupid" if it did not impose the same 10-match penalty as Uefa was advocating.

"It will not add any credibility to the FA's stance that it has zero tolerance on this matter," said Ouseley. "It's very important they build credibility and send out a very confident message that will make people feel they can complain and something will be done."

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