Belfast Telegraph

Uefa must kick bad boys out of football, says Baird

By Graham Luney

Chris Baird says Uefa are right to threaten Serbia with the axe from Euro 2012 qualifiers.

Serbia were forced to play Friday night’s qualifier against Northern Ireland in the Crvena Zvezda Stadium “behind closed doors” by Uefa as punishment for their fans rioting and causing the postponement of last October’s match against Italy in Genoa.

Two hundred and sixty five Northern Ireland fans were allowed in by Uefa as they’d already made travel plans before the ban was imposed but it still made for a surreal atmosphere inside the vast stadium.

Uefa president Michel Platini has warned Serbia that any more outbreaks of trouble by their fans could see them kicked out of the tournament.

Serbia have been given a one-year deadline to sort out their hooliganism problem or be kicked off the international stage.

Baird, who donned the captain’s armband in Belgrade on the occasion of his 50th cap, says Uefa should be getting tough on thugs who ruin what should be special family occasions.

“If people are going to cause trouble then teams should be punished more often,” said the Rasharkin man.

“Sadly it has backfired on us, with our fans being unfairly punishment but Uefa should step in and do something about it. It can’t be allowed to happen.

“It’s nice for the fans that were able to travel but so many have been denied the chance to go to the game.”

Platini, pledging to get tough on the hooligans, said: “I'm sick of the fact that people can't go safely to stadiums.

“The two countries (Serbia and Croatia) have been given a one-year deadline. If a year from now they have not addressed the issue, we'll strip them from international competition.

“This happened in the 1980s with our English friends. They were suspended for five years and did some excellent work afterwards. If that's the only solution, we'll apply zero tolerance.”

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