Giggs urges referees to take players off the field if Wales suffer racist abuse

Ryan Giggs says referees must be prepared to take teams off the field should Wales players suffer racial abuse during their Euro 2020 qualifiers with Croatia and Hungary.

Wales will next week become the first British side to play in the Balkans since Montenegro supporters racially abused England players in March.

Danny Rose, Raheem Sterling and Callum Hudson-Odoi were particularly targeted as the tarnished stock of the Balkans’ football fans fell further.

Montenegro v England – UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying – Group A – Podgorica City Stadium
Raheem Sterling was a victim of racial abuse during England’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro in March (Nick Potts/PA)

Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia – who Wales play in Osijek next Saturday – have all had problems in recent years with their supporters guilty of racial abuse.

Croatia played England behind close doors in Rijeka last October after a swastika symbol was carved into the pitch during a Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy.

And Hungary, who Wales meet in Budapest three days after the Croatia game, were punished for the racist behaviour of their fans in March.

There will be a partial stadium closure of 3,000 seats at the Groupama Arena for the Wales game – and Giggs is aware of the problem ahead of his side’s Euro 2020 double-header.

Wales v Trinidad and Tobago – International Friendly – Racecourse Ground
Wales manager Ryan Giggs says the football authoritities must get tougher over the issue of racism (Nick Potts/PA)

“It’s obviously an issue,” Giggs said. “We have seen big problems in games this season that we haven’t seen for a long time.

“For us we have enough to worry about with the game, so we will leave it to the authorities if there is any racism during the game.

“We trust the authorities that they will do the right thing. But the punishments have not been strong enough.

“When you see fines being banded out (Montenegro were fined 20,000 euros and ordered to play one game behind closed doors), I think (Cardiff manager) Neil Warnock got the same for speaking out about a referee here.

“It’s not sufficient and it won’t stop teams. Bans need to be imposed or points deducted because that is the only way certain federations can do anything.”

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin responded to the events in Montenegro three months ago by saying that he will ask referees to be “brave” and stop matches where there is racial abuse from fans.

Giggs also believes the onus is on referees to intervene when racism in the stadium is clearly audible,

“It’s difficult for the players to do that (walk off the field),” Giggs said .

Aleksander Ceferin File Photo
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has said he will ask referees to stop matches where there is racial abuse from fans (Niall Carson/PA)

“I welcome the right people having to make the decision rather than the onus being on the players.

“Then the players are open to criticism rather than it being taken out of their own hands.

“If an individual is targeted it’s up to that individual to do what they feel is right, but everyone is different.”

Wales began their Euro 2020 campaign in perfect fashion by beating Slovakia 1-0 at home in March.

Wales v Slovakia – UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying – Group E – Cardiff City Stadium
Wales started their Euro 2020 campaign by beating Slovakia in March with a goal from Daniel James (Darren Staples/PA)

But Juventus-bound midfielder Aaron Ramsey will miss the Croatia and Hungary double-header with the hamstring injury that ended his Arsenal career prematurely.

“I was about 27, 28 and similar to Aaron when I started all the yoga and a different diet,” said Giggs, who himself had a long history of hamstring problems.

“As a professional it takes a bit of time to know what your body can take. A lot of the time you are thinking ‘I can get away with it’. If you can get away with it then you go for it.

“The amount of times my hamstring was a little bit tight and sometimes I got away with it and other times I didn’t. It’s that gamble.

Albania v Wales – International Friendly – Elbasan Arena
Juventus-bound midfielder Aaron Ramsey has been plagued by the same hamstring problems which plagued Giggs in his own career (Adam Davy/PA)

“I remember Bayern Munich away (November 2001) and I did my hamstring the night before the game, in the last two minutes of training.

“I seriously considered giving up because of the disappointment that I kept getting injured.

“I went back to my room and thought I’ve had enough of this. People might think it was an over-exaggeration but I kept missing big games.

“It’s easy to say to players you have to manage yourself. But when there is the carrot of a big game it’s not easy because footballers want to play.”