The European football governing body, UEFA, has initiated disciplinary proceedings against the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) for racism and discrimination during the European Qualifiers match between Croatia and Latvia, which took place at the HNK Rijeka stadium.
An observer from FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) submitted a report to the match delegate, stating that an individual in the Croatian supporter section had displayed a Ustasha flag on several occasions. Due to this incident, UEFA has launched disciplinary proceedings against the HNS, the federation confirmed today.
The Croatian Football Federation is currently under conditional punishment for discriminatory behaviour by fans during the UEFA Nations League finals. This new penalty could potentially activate a one-match ban without spectators.
Croatia’s next home game is scheduled for October 12th in Osijek.
“During the latter part of the first half, security personnel noticed two individuals raising an unauthorised flag. They were isolated and handed over to the police, along with the flag,” HNS said in a statement.
Upon receiving UEFA’s report, the Croatian Football Federation promptly sent an official letter to the Municipal Court in Rijeka, the Police Administration of Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, and the Police Directorate, requesting their comments on the results of the criminal investigation and misdemeanour proceedings.
This information will enable the Federation to inform UEFA’s Disciplinary Committee about how these individuals will be prosecuted and penalised. During the police investigation, a third person who assisted in bringing the flag into the stadium was identified, resulting in misdemeanour charges and legal proceedings against all three individuals.
Additionally, the Federation will inform UEFA about all the comprehensive preparations and security measures taken before, during, and after the match to prevent and deter any unlawful behaviours, which ultimately led to an excellent atmosphere without any unauthorised chants.
The HNS will pursue all legal options against individuals who, through deliberate and targeted unlawful conduct, have caused significant harm to the Croatian national football team and the reputation of the Republic of Croatia, HNS added.
“Unfortunately, the actions of these three individuals are enough to tarnish the beautiful picture at Rujevica, where our supporters have been impeccable, as evidenced by the delegate’s report, which had no complaints about the fans’ behaviour. We thank the Police Directorate for their collaboration with the Federation in preparing for the match to ensure it went incident-free. However, the highly irresponsible, unlawful, and disgraceful behaviour of these three individuals could result in significant damage to our team and the reputation of the Republic of Croatia as a whole.
We will do everything in this process to convince UEFA that punishing all fans and our national team for the actions of these three individuals is unnecessary. Croatia will appropriately prosecute this case and send a strong message that such behaviour and the glorification of the Ustasha movement in modern, independent, and European Croatia are absolutely unacceptable and strictly punishable. However, there is a real possibility that part or even the entire stadium in Osijek may be closed, which would be a massive disappointment and incalculable harm to the team and all its fans. Therefore, we will take all available legal steps to ensure that those responsible for this incident are held both financially and legally accountable for the enormous damage caused,” said Jurica Jurjević, Head of Prevention, Security, and Integrity Affairs at the HNS.