UEFA’s decision to award Italy with a 3-0 win is not fair no matter how you look at it, and I don’t care what Serbia think.
Serbian fans crossed the line; their actions were against the better interest of sport, and the punishment that Serbia received is just. Serbia deserves to forfeit the match and to have to play its next two home fixtures behind closed doors.
The actions of the supporters were disgusting.
Italy did not come away unscathed, as they were fined 100,000 euros for their security failing to contain the rowdy Serbian supporters.
But no matter what Serbia did, Italy does not deserve a 3-0 win, not so long as this competition is supposed to be fair for Slovenia, Estonia, Northern Ireland, and the Faroe Islands, the other four national teams in Group C.
By granting Italy a free three points and a free three goals, the Azzurri now have a strong lead in Group C. They are now three points clear of Slovenia on 10 points, and their +9 goal differential is a full five ahead of Slovenia’s +4.
In case you forgot, Slovenia did nothing wrong.
Estonia, who are also innocent, fall four points behind the Azzurri on six.
Northern Ireland are next on five points. Although currently fourth, the Green and White Army have a match in hand on the three countries ahead of them. Had Serbia and Italy played to a draw, Northern Ireland could use that match-in-hand to pull even on points with Italy. Oh, they also did nothing wrong.
The Faroe Islands likely don’t have a chance to qualify with only one draw from five matches, but they too have a gripe.
UEFA, in its infinite wisdom, has punished all four countries in their bids to qualify for the 2012 European Championships. Italy, in essence, has been given a free three-goal win because its security could not do its job, the same three-goal win that has not been awarded to anyone else in the group.
I understand the difficulty. Fairness and football rarely match up, and it’s impossible to ever make a competition completely fair. If Bastian Schweinsteiger gets a couple of yellow cards and has to miss Germany’s match against, say, Turkey, it gives Turkey an advantage that Austria and Belgium won’t have. It’s not perfect, but players must be punished for dirty play.
But why should four countries be penalized and one country rewarded for the actions of the supporters of a sixth country? Why should Italy be gifted three points to the detriment of Slovenia, Estonia, Northern Ireland, and the Faroe Islands?
They shouldn’t, and it’s entirely unfair.
There is only one fair thing UEFA could do. UEFA could fairly order the Italy v. Serbia match to be replayed, ban Serbia from bringing any supporters, and prohibit Serbia from obtaining any points. If Serbia wins, no one receives points; a draw is worth one point to Italy and zero to Serbia; an Italian win is worth the three points to Italy that it currently has been granted.
In terms of goal difference, Serbia will be handed a 0-3 defeat regardless the outcome, unless, of course, they lose by more than three. If Italy win 6-0, Serbia lose 0-6. If Italy win 2-1, Serbia still lose 0-3.
Of course, this isn’t perfect.
With nothing to play for, why would Serbia play its best XI? Why would anyone on the XI play to his capability? I understand that Serbian indifference could very well lead to Italy outperforming the 3-0 win they were gifted, but at least make the Azzurri earn their points. In the name of fairness, points cannot be gifted.
During the 1996-97 English Premier League season, Middlesbrough canceled a fixture against Blackburn Rovers on short notice. As punishment, they allowed Boro to eventually replay the match, but they were docked three points. Blackburn weren’t gifted three points because giving Blackburn points would not be fair.
It’s never fair to give points.
But UEFA has crossed that line.
UEFA, because Italy naturally does not want to have to replay the match, has conceded three points to Italy to the detriment of four countries that did nothing wrong. And that should not be tolerated.
It is disgusting, and someone with the intelligence of Michel Platini should know just how disgusting it is.
If UEFA truly cared about fairness; if UEFA truly cared about making its premier international competition fair for all 53 nations that entered, then no country would ever be gifted a win. Not under any circumstance.
It’s fair to punish; it’s fair to deduct a win from a country or deny that country the right to win a match if it does something wrong.
Yes, it makes it easier for the other five countries in Group C to qualify when Serbia is docked a win, but all five gain the same advantage. That is fair.
But to give a second country a win for the misdeeds of the first? That is wrong. That is disgusting.
And by association, that makes UEFA disgusting.
By granting Italy a win it did not earn, FIFA has diminished the credibility of the entire qualifying process. It has by result punished four other countries for doing absolutely nothing wrong. If FIFA lets this result stand, it will be nothing shy of despicable.
Michel Platini, I implore you to reconsider your decision. I implore you to look at what you are doing to Slovenia, Estonia, Northern Ireland, and the Faroe Islands. I implore you to make the playing field even for everyone.
The Faroe Islands might have zero chance of ever qualifying for any major event; they might never even finish better than second-last in their group. But that doesn’t mean they should be punished.
They were punished today, and for no reason.
And that, even more than the actions of the Serbian supporters, is what’s disgusting.