Football chiefs tell players: “stone the hacks”

Reporters and photographers travelling to Transylvania next week to cover Chelsea’s Champions’ League group match against CFR Cluj might need to take their hard hats, after the Romanian national football federation, including a senior UEFA football official, has encouraged players to hurl abuse – and missiles – at sports journalists.

The move has brought condemnation from journalism groups.

The Romanian Football Federation (FRF), led by president Mircea Sandu, a member of the executive committee of the European Football Federation UEFA, has encouraged players to act violently – including throwing stones and being abusive – against journalists and the media.

“It is a scandal that football players are being encouraged to throw stones at journalists by their managers and officials,” said Arne König, the chairman of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ). “The EFJ cannot understand why such a hooligan behaviour can take place without sanctions.”

The protests arise following incidents before the World Cup qualifying game between Romania and Lithuania on September 6, when players of the national football team threw stones at journalists and abused them. The press officer of FRF ordered the journalists “to stay 10 metres away from the players”.

Last month the sports editor the Monitor newspaper, Ionel Lutan, was physically attacked by by Stefan Chitu – president of CSM Club in Ploiesti and a member of the FRF national executive committee. A similar incident happened when the coach of Politehnica Iasi team, Ionut Popa, assaulted reporters from Romanian TV.

No action has been taken over these attacks.

The EFJ is backing the complaints of its Romanian affiliate, MediSind, to the president of UEFA Michel Platini over these incidents. “This is shocking and unacceptable behaviour from the leaders of sport in Romania,” said König. “Europe’s football authorities should intervene to put an end to such intimidation.”

Chelsea, last year’s European Cup losing finallists, are drawn in the same European Champions’ League group as CFR Cluj, the Romanian champions from Transylvania, and are due to play there on October 1.

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