LALIGA lands first ever conviction in Spain for racist abuse at a football match

The first conviction for racist insults at a football match in Spain was handed down today as a result of a complaint filed directly by LALIGA to the courts.

 The sentence, which was handed down for the racist chants directed against Vinicius Jr on 21st May 2023 at Mestalla by three individuals, found the defendants guilty of a crime against moral integrity of Art. 173.1 of Spain’s Penal Code with aggravating circumstance of discrimination based on racist motives (Art. 22.4 P.C.)

 The sentence which amounted to 12 months in prison was reduced by a third as a result of an agreement at the preliminary investigation stage, leaving the final sentence for the three accused at eight months in prison plus the costs of the proceedings. The guilty parties have also been banned from entering any football stadium in which LALIGA and/or RFEF (Royal Spanish Football Federation) matches are played for a period of three years, subsequently reduced to two years on the aforementioned grounds.

 It is important to remember that Valencia CF, at whose Mestalla stadium the incident in question occurred, cooperated in the identification of the accused and immediately expelled them as members of the club.

 This is the first conviction of its kind to ever be handed down in Spain. The case was brought before the courts by LALIGA, which was joined by the RFEF, Real Madrid and, in recent weeks, Vinicius Jr.

 During the hearing, the defendants read a letter of apology to Vinicius Jr, LALIGA and Real Madrid, acknowledging that LALIGA had fought against racism and had acted decisively at a legal and institutional level from the outset, not just in this case but in others too. “This ruling is great news for the fight against racism in Spain, as it goes some way to redressing the disgraceful wrong suffered by Vinicius Jr. and sends a clear message to those individuals who go to a football stadium to hurl abuse. LALIGA will identify them, report them, and there will be criminal consequences,” said LALIGA President Javier Tebas.

“I understand that there may be some frustration at the length of time it takes for these sentences to be handed down, but this shows that Spain is a country that guarantees judicial integrity. We at LALIGA can only respect the pace of justice, but once again we demand that Spanish legislation evolve to give LALIGA sanctioning powers that can speed up the fight against racism,” he added.

LALIGA’s fight against racism

 LALIGA has been a leader in the fight against racism for years, not just through raising awareness but also detection and reporting incidents.

LALIGA does not have the legal power to sanction clubs, fans or players for hateful conduct, racism or violent acts. Existing legislation in Spain only allows LALIGA to bring the facts before the relevant authorities.

Since the 2015/2016 season, LALIGA has reported all cases of violence and abuse occurring inside and outside stadiums to the State Commission against Violence, Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance in Sport, as well as to the RFEF’s Competition Committee.

In January 2020, as a result of disgraceful racist insults against Athletic Club’s Iñaki Williams, LALIGA decided to go one step further, turning directly to the justice system, either through the Hate Prosecutor’s Office, the courts or the relevant security forces, for cases involving offences which fall under the Penal Code.

The case relating to Iñaki Williams should have been the first to reach a judgement, but several procedural difficulties have slowed down the judicial process.

On several occasions, LALIGA has requested an amendment to Law 19/2007 of 11 July 2007 against Violence, Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance in Sport, and Law 39/2022 of 30 December 2007 on Sport, to acquire sanctioning powers in such cases, powers which would significantly reduce the time required to impose any sanctions.

In recent years, LALIGA has also launched the LALIGA VS project, an initiative between LALIGA and the clubs that aims to eradicate hatred inside and outside stadiums by promoting a respectful and inclusive society on all levels. The project seeks to inspire and raise awareness among fans using the values of football to build a society free of hate and discrimination.

Over the last eight years, over 700 initiatives and projects have been undertaken by LALIGA and its clubs. Specifically, LALIGA EA SPORTS and LALIGA HYPERMOTION clubs have implemented 44 campaigns in the past five years aimed at curbing hate speech, using education as a foundation, pushing prevention through awareness-raising campaigns, and taking direct action.

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