Jonathan Wilson has an article up questioning the wisdom of a knee-jerk expulsion for Serbia from UEFA following their response to allegations Danny Rose was racially abused by fans in a U21 match. While I agree with the argument that expulsion should be a last-resort strategy, I disagree with Wilson’s underlying reasoning:
Many in England have called for Serbia to be expelled from European competition. After the hooliganism that forced the abandonment of the Italy v Serbia Euro 2012 qualifier in Genoa, it’s easy to understand why. The danger is that doing so pushes Serbian football further into fuck-you isolationism. The truth is that many in Serbian football are appalled by what has happened, about the self-destructiveness that seems to pervade their game at every level, but the statement released on Wednesday by the FSS fails to reflect that.
The situation is similar in some ways to when English football clubs were expelled indefinitely from UEFA competition following the 1985 stand collapse at Heysel, killing 39 Juventus supporters. It would be a gross oversimplification of history to suggest that the ban itself directly contributed to the gentrification of club football in England (Hillsborough and the Taylor Report played a far greater role), but it did at least increase the motivation for those who still loved the game but were appalled by the culture of violence it engendered to reclaim their stake in the domestic game.
A similar expulsion might encourage those voices of moderation in Serbian football (I know they exist based on my Twitter account alone) to reclaim their FA and encourage an end to racial abuse in international football matches. In matters as serious as this, UEFA can ill afford to repeatedly hand out carrots without sticks.