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Espanyol to ban 12 supporters after racist abuse of Athletic’s Iñaki Williams

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Espanyol, Inaki Williams

The Spanish first division club Espanyol will ban 12 supporters after they were identified as having subjected Iñaki Williams to racist abuse during a match against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

The club have also passed their report on to local police in case there is a legal case to answer, with the football authorities proposing tougher measures against abuse in stadiums.

Williams was heading towards the bench having been substituted with 20 minutes remaining, leaving the pitch behind the goal Athletic were attacking, when he heard noises from the stand.

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At one point, he paused and could be seen to mutter “sons of bitches”. As he reached the bench, he told teammates that he had heard monkey chants. Footage caught by a camera positioned on the touchline and shown on television that evening clearly picked up the chants as Williams passed the corner flag.

The game was not stopped or abandoned, and nor was there any tannoy announcement. The referee, who had been unaware of the chants, was informed of them at full-time by the Athletic captain, Iker Munian, and neither the delegate from the league nor the federation heard them.

Because of the existing protocol, which requires the referee or delegates to witness the abuse directly, the abuse was not included in the referees’ official report but the league and the federation investigated, as did Espanyol.

The league’s report said the chanting had lasted 10 seconds. There was widespread condemnation with Williams receiving a message of support from across the game and the prime minister, Pedro Sánchez. La Liga initially proposed a partial closure of the stand as a punishment.

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Espanyol announced on Monday night that they had investigated the incident and, “after an exhaustive analysis of video images”, had identified 12 supporters in sectors 107 and 108. Nine of them are season-ticket holders, while three others were described as “occasional purchasers of tickets”.

The report will be passed on to the club’s disciplinary committee with the intention that none of those fans return to Espanyol games. The nine season-ticket holders will have their membership revoked and none of them will be allowed to buy tickets.

“We did what we had to do; we made all necessary effort, in collaboration with the league,” said Espanyol’s vice-president, Carlos García Pont. “Football has values to defend. We have to try to ensure that people with these attitudes do not enter the ground.”

The Athletic president, Aitor Elizegi, said: “Espanyol have been as concerned about this as we have. These people, who are a minority, have to know that they have no hiding place. Those who cannot embrace the values of sport are not wanted.”

Source: The Guardian

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