Docking points from clubs would deter racist fans, suggests La Liga president

<span>Photograph: Óscar del Pozo/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Óscar del Pozo/AFP/Getty Images

Javier Tebas has said La Liga should “certainly” consider docking points from clubs whose fans engage in racist behaviour, as he sought to regain control of the crisis that has engulfed Spanish football over the continued abuse of Vinícius Júnior.

La Liga’s president followed an apology to the Brazil international with a 90-minute press conference on Thursday, in which he spoke of plans to increase powers against racist offenders and acknowledged mistakes in not instigating change earlier. He also said he had not yet spoken to Vinícius after the abuse he received during Real Madrid’s match against Valencia last weekend, an incident that sparked international controversy.

Related: ‘It’s not just in football’: young players’ families on racism in Spain

“Would it be a good idea for us to start thinking about the system [of docking points]? I do think so,” Tebas said of a measure adopted recently in Brazilian football. “Yes certainly. I think that it would be very positive if it could be adopted here. I think that would be enough, with a view to the future. But with the current sanctions framework we have here we don’t have the ability to apply it ourselves.”

The authority to levy sanctions against fans and clubs for racist behaviour lies in the scope of the legal system and a competitions committee comprised of representatives of the Spanish Football Association, the government and La Liga. Tebas has requested that La Liga should have the right to act unilaterally, with the docking of points a sanction that would stand alongside the partial closure of stadiums, a punishment meted out to Valencia by the committee.

La Liga made a formal request to change the laws this week, months after Vinícius first said that the competition was “doing nothing” to deal with racism. Tebas acknowledged that he should have acted sooner. “That was probably a mistake of ours,” he said, “but we thought we were making progress in the courts when we made direct complaints. In the case of Mallorca and Vinícius [in February] this year, the two responsible for the insults have been sanctioned. It seemed we had been making progress and the state prosecutors were supporting us but we’ve seen that it is not enough. We need greater agility, we need more speed, we need to solve these problems more quickly.”

Real Madrid players wear shirts in support of Vinícius Júnior before their match against Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday.

Tebas repeated his claim that if La Liga was given increased powers “we are convinced that within months [racist abuse] can be solved”, but said he will wait to speak with Vinícius directly. “I think it’s better for things to calm down a little beforehand,” Tebas said. “I wouldn’t have a problem in talking with him or with his agents whenever there is a timely moment. I’m convinced and I hope that Vinícius will stay in Spanish football.

“The first thing I would say to him is that I am sorry I offended him, but that wasn’t my intention. I didn’t want to accuse him and I would explain to him everything that we do, all the time. I would explain to him that I am frustrated too, like he is frustrated. My frustration is probably even more as I know that we could have the powers and that we could [then] intervene.”

Tebas acknowledged that the reputation of La Liga and Spanish football had been hit, especially in Brazil, where the lights of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer were turned off in solidarity with Vinícius, and politicians including the president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, condemned the treatment of the player.

“If I weren’t concerned I’d be crazy,” Tebas said. “We will work to try and find a solution, to turn this image around because Spanish football is not racist. La Liga has worked and will continue to work against this behaviour of xenophobic and racist comments in stadiums.”