LaLiga president Javier Tebas said on Thursday that he is concerned about the reputational damage suffered by the league over racist abuse aimed at Vinicius, and said he would support points deductions as a punishment to deal with the problem.
Tebas has faced widespread criticism for his initial response to Vinicius when engaging in a social media debate with the forward — who had said that “racism is normal in LaLiga” — after Vinicius was racially abused in Real Madrid‘s league match at Valencia on Sunday.
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Police made three arrests this week over the incident at Mestalla, while the Spanish football federation (RFEF)’s Competition Committee hit Valencia with a five-match closure of the stand where the abuse occurred, which the club have said they will appeal.
A day after apologising for the offence caused by his interaction with Vinicius — in an interview with ESPN Brasil — Tebas held a 90-minute long news conference at LaLiga’s headquarters in Madrid in which he set out the action the league has taken on racism.
“Of course I’m worried [about LaLiga’s image],” Tebas said. “If I wasn’t, I’d be crazy. LaLiga has worked to fight against racist insults. But obviously it worries me… It’s a blow, but we’ll work to recover the reputation we may have lost. We think it doesn’t reflect the reality.”
LaLiga has said it would like to be granted further powers to deal with the issue, arguing that it is limited to filing complaints with criminal prosecutors and the RFEF.
“The punishment of taking away points only exists currently in the case of fielding an ineligible player,” Tebas said, when asked about alternative sanctions. “Would it be good? I think so. Although with the current regime, and the powers we’re asking for, I think that would be enough.”
Tebas said that his Twitter discussion with Vinicius had given the wrong impression.
LaLiga has filed 10 criminal complaints over racist abuse aimed at Vinicius over the last two seasons, although on several occasions, prosecutors decided not to pursue a case.
– Racist abuse to Vinicius must lead to change in LaLiga
“I didn’t want to criticise Vinicius,” he said. “Maybe that was my mistake, I didn’t mean to criticise him but rather to give him the information that we’re doing a lot of things. It was frustration. I think Vinicius is frustrated too. It was a mistake.”
Tebas said that he had not yet spoken to Vinicius directly to apologise, and that he would support the player if he chose to walk off the field in response to racist abuse.
The Brazil international missed Madrid’s league game with Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday with a knee problem, although he was present at the Bernabeu, with teammates and fans showing their support with applause before the game and in the 20th minute, reflecting his shirt number.
“I think it’s best to let this calm down,” Tebas said. “But when it’s convenient, when it’s the right time, I’ll talk to him, and his representatives. I want Vinicius to stay in Spanish football and I want to show him that with more powers, we can deal with racism.”
“If he feels affected, of course [I would support leaving the field]. He’d have the support of the league and my personal support… These have been some of my worst days as president and as a person. I’m not a racist.”