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14 April 2021, 14:38 | Updated: 14 April 2021, 23:12
Slavia Prague defender Ondrej Kudela has been given a 10-match ban by UEFA for "racist behaviour" towards Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara, who will serve a three-game suspension.
Kamara said he was racially abused by Kudela during the second leg of Rangers' Europa League last-16 tie against Slavia at Ibrox on March 18. Kudela insisted he swore at a Rangers player after being fouled but denied using racist language.
The centre-back had been provisionally suspended for one match as UEFA opened disciplinary proceedings, which ruled him out of his side's 1-1 draw at Arsenal last week.
The Czech Republic international will now be ineligible for the next nine games played by either his club in Europe or his country, including this summer's European Championship.
As it stands, Kudela will miss the remainder of Slavia's Europa League campaign - they play the second leg of their quarter-final tie against Arsenal on Thursday night - plus at least five matches at Euro 2020, including the Czech Republic's group games against Scotland and England.
Kamara has been suspended for three games after he was found guilty of assaulting Kudela after the match. His ban only covers UEFA club competitions, meaning he will be eligible to represent Finland at the Euros. Both sanctions are open to appeal.
Kamara said last week he had been racially abused on social media "every day" since the incident. His team-mates have boycotted the platforms for a week in support.
Rangers forward Kemar Roofe, who was also racially abused online after being shown a red card for a high-boot challenge on Slavia goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar, was banned for four games by UEFA for "dangerously assaulting another player".
Rangers were fined a total of €9,000 (£7,800) for improper conduct after Leon Balogun was also sent off and three other players were booked during the match, which the Czech side won 2-0 to progress 3-1 on aggregate.
Police Scotland confirmed a separate investigation into the night's actions and events is still ongoing.
Rangers said they welcome the ban given to Kudela but plan to appeal against the "severe" suspensions handed to Kamara and Roofe.
"Rangers notes the UEFA disciplinary decision relating to our fixture v Slavia Prague at Ibrox on 18th March," the club said on Wednesday.
"We welcome the suspension imposed on Ondrej Kudela. This not only vindicates Glen Kamara's evidence but underlines the severity of the comment, given the number of games imposed by UEFA.
"Nevertheless, we believe the sanctions imposed on our two players (Glen Kamara and Kemar Roofe) are severe.
"We have written to UEFA, seeking clarification in writing on the basis that we intend to appeal the suspensions on both our players."
In a statement released by his lawyers, Kudela said he was "surprised" by the verdict and reiterated his innocence.
However, the 34-year-old admitted it was a "big mistake" to approach Kamara in the first place and apologised for his actions.
"I was left surprised by the decision by the UEFA disciplinary committee, which differed from the conclusions made by their inspector beforehand," Kudela said.
"According to him, there was no convincing evidence for my racism allegation, which I still deny.
"Looking back, I realise it was a big mistake to approach Glen Kamara and say anything to him. The match was emotionally tense and I'm not able to take it back. I'm very sorry."
Kudela's lawyers added: "The decision was delivered without any justification, so in agreement with the client, we will ask for his statement and then consider lodging an appeal.
"The disciplinary proceeding was officially started on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 and the player was asked to make a statement and submit evidence by Monday, April 12, 2021.
"The disciplinary file contained more than 130 pages of statements, messages and proof, as well as dozens of minutes of video footage including analysis.
"We express serious doubts about how carefully the disciplinary body has become acquainted with the circumstances, especially with our last statement made (only) about a day and a half ago."
Slavia swiftly rejected allegations of racism concerning Kudela in previous statements but in the wake of UEFA's verdict, chairman Jaroslav Tvrdik says the club respects the punishment.
Tvrdik criticised Kudela for being involved in a confrontation with Kamara and said Slavia are working on improving their internal processes in regards to tackling racism.
He said: "Ondrej was suspended for 10 UEFA games and as a club we respect the decision.
"In any case, Ondrej Kudela should not have approached the opposition player. I deeply regret that and apologise to Glen Kamara for a situation that has clearly caused distress to him and his team-mates, as well as everyone associated with Slavia and Rangers.
"I am taking positive steps to prevent such a situation from happening in our club ever again. A long-term aim of the club's management is to build a 'Slavia for everybody' with zero tolerance towards hatred, racism, and discrimination.
"Slavia never discriminated against any minority as a club. We want to learn even more from this situation, and we are open to cooperating with major anti-racism British organisations on workshops and setting up even more robust internal club rules.
"It is a way for us to organise a broader dialogue that should result in mutual understanding between people in Czechia as well as the UK. This would benefit all players, fans, and citizens."
UEFA regulations state racist behaviour constitutes a ban of "at least 10 matches". The written reasons for Kudela's punishment, explaining the decisions in full, are expected to be published in the coming weeks.
Kamara's lawyer says Kudela's ban "makes a mockery" of UEFA's suggestion it takes racism seriously and believes the European governing body should have imposed a minimum year-long suspension.
Aamer Anwar also claims he appealed against a five-match ban initially given to Kamara before it was later reduced to three.
Speaking to Sky Sports News last week, Mr Anwar said his client feels "victimised" following the incident.
"It is welcome news that today UEFA has found Ondrej Kudela guilty of the racist abuse of Rangers player Glen Kamara," Mr Anwar said following the verdict.
"However, Glen is left disappointed that the sanction imposed by UEFA on Kudela is the bare minimum of 10 games, that could be imposed.
"On Monday we provided UEFA with a substantial dossier of evidence on Kudela's racism seeking robust sanctions, but we also made submissions that the proposed five-match ban for Glen should be reduced.
"Whilst Glen's proposed five-match ban is now down to three, we will await the publication of UEFA's full decision, before deciding whether to appeal against this sanction."
He added: "As for the sanction imposed upon Kudela, UEFA should have imposed a minimum year-long ban rather than a tokenistic 10-match ban.
"Under the UEFA disciplinary regulations, Kudela could have been banned for 'at least ten matches or a specified period of time', and we firmly believe that UEFA should have made use of the significant discretion available to them, to send a far stronger message that this type of abhorrent conduct will not be tolerated on the football field.
"There is no other workplace within which such racist behaviour would be tolerated. Sadly UEFA once again has made a mockery of their claims that they want to kick racism out of football.
"Ondrej Kudela acted in a grotesque and racist manner, but his behaviour was compounded by his club Slavia Prague, who implied that my client Glen was a liar. Kudela's racist behaviour has consequences and it has incited the fans of Slavia Prague, who went on to subject Glen Kamara to horrendous racism on a daily basis.
"There is no excuse or justification for racism on or off the playing field, and it really is time for the footballing community to take action against clubs, fans and social media that perpetuate racism."
Kick It Out chief executive Tony Burnett says the ban is insufficient and insists football needs to "catch up" with the rest of society.
"The punishment's a joke," he told Sky Sports News. "Just because it's better than what's gone before doesn't mean it's appropriate for what happened. It's completely inadequate.
"In any other organisation, any other workplace, that individual would not be allowed back because they'd be fired, but football bizarrely has a different set of rules to society and it's wrong.
"In situations like this, it just highlights the discrepancy between the moral values we put on things of this nature in broader society, and where football is. Football is light years behind and it needs to catch up really quickly."
Anti-racism charity Show Racism the Red Card added on Twitter: "UEFA handing Ondrej Kudela a 10-match ban after he whispered racist abuse into the ear of Glen Kamara is wildly insufficient.
"Players can wear 'respect' on their arms, but without zero tolerance of racist abuse, it stands as an empty gesture."
Kudela had covered his mouth before talking to Kamara, something former Netherlands international Clarence Seedorf believes should be sanctioned.
"I have seen stuff with players speaking and covering their mouth during matches," he said in an online event hosted by the Council of Europe on Wednesday.
"There were some racist situations in the last weeks or months where the players among themselves had hate speeches.
"Those things can be very easily attacked by implementing some rules. For me it should be abandoned to be able to speak like that when you approach an adversary.
"When we're talking about sport it has to be completely transparent, so why would I cover my mouth if I need to talk with my adversary?
"If I want to (cover my mouth to) talk to my coach or a team-mate, all fine, but when I approach the referee or another player in any sport, you are not allowed to cover your mouth, it has to be a sanction, a yellow card."
Anti-racism campaigner and FARE executive director Piara Powar praised UEFA, and believes the decision to hand Kudela a 10-game ban "lays down the marker".
"It's a landmark decision," he said. "It's the first time we've seen this sort of decision being taken in European football.
"I think it's the first time UEFA has used the 10-match ban they have at their disposal. It lays down the marker.
"As we've seen, there are players who are racially abusing other players. We've noted this player-on-player abuse has happened six times since September 2020.
"It's good that UEFA has taken that sanction, it lays down the marker for other football authorities and we hope they will follow."
A ban of at least 10 games for racist behaviour was a sanction first introduced by UEFA in 2013 and has in fact been used before.
Kostyantyn Makhnovskyi, a Ukrainian goalkeeper for Latvian club Ventspils, was also suspended for the same period in 2019 after an incident in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League.
Sky Sports News chief reporter Bryan Swanson:
"This has clearly been an evidence-based decision where the inspector has found something that has then prompted UEFA's disciplinary body to ban Kudela for 10 matches.
"Clearly there are still a lot of unanswered questions here. We don't yet have the full written reasons to see exactly the detail behind the decision so that we can work out and piece together exactly what that inspector found that led them to make their recommendations.
"UEFA will feel this does send out a strong message that racist behaviour is unacceptable, but there will be those in the game who will say this does not go far enough."
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