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Platini: Racism protestors who walk will be booked

ESPN staff
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UEFA president Michel Platini has told the official Euro 2012 kick-off press conference that any player who leaves the pitch due to racist abuse will be given a yellow card.

Platini confirmed that the rule preventing players from leaving the field of play without the referee's permission would be enforced even if they are the victims of racism from the stands in Poland and Ukraine.

The comments came after Mario Balotelli last week threatened to walk off the pitch if he suffered racist abuse during Italy's Euro 2012 games - and Platini confirmed he would be punished in that event.

"It's a yellow card," Platini said at a Warsaw press conference dominated by the theme of racism. "We'd certainly support the referee if he decided to stop the game. It's not a player, Mr Balotelli, who's in charge of refereeing. It's the referee who takes these decisions.

"So the referee has been given advice and he can stop the game if there are problems. We will stop the game if there are problems because I think racism is the worst of this.''

UEFA's chief refereeing officer, Pierluigi Collina, underlined Platini's sentiment, insisting the teams had been informed of the procedure in the event of racist abuse being a problem.

"Things are clear,'' he said, confirming that officials had also been fully briefed. "Referees have a protocol so they know what they have to do. The match director, who is responsible for each match, knows what has to be done on the field of play."

Platini, though, refused to be drawn on the findings of last week's BBC Panorama programme, as well as Sol Campbell's warning that black fans who travel to the tournament risk "coming back in a coffin''.

The Frenchman, who was increasingly angered by the line of questioning, added: "What would you like me to say? How would you want me to answer this?

"Everyone can do what they like. I don't think there's any more racism in Poland and Ukraine than in France or anywhere else, or even in England. It's not a footballing problem. It's a problem for society.

"I'm not charge of what goes on in football stadiums. It's the states that need to take charge of this. There have been problems with violence in the 1970s in England.

"They made great strides actually to change the situation, and we need to do work in the field of racism and we need to stop this from happening. How can you say outside the stadium: 'He's a racist - he can't come in, he's not a racist - he can come in'? You can't do it."

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