New J.League chairman Mitsuru Murai said Wednesday that he considered a banner displayed by Urawa Reds fans on Saturday to be racist.
Regarding the banner at Reds’ home game against first-division rivals Sagan Tosu that read, “Japanese only,” Murai said, “I recognize it as a racist expression.”
The club has until Friday to submit a report of its investigation into the manner and the league will determine what disciplinary action to take.
In 2010, Reds were censured and fined ¥5 million over racist remarks by some of their supporters toward opposing players, and it is possible that a similar punishment may be meted out this time. League regulations also allow for sanctions such as ordering games played at neutral venue or behind closed doors or the deduction of championship points. None of these sanctions have ever been used in the J.League.
The banner, which was displayed at an entrance to the stadium could have various interpretations such as “Only Japanese allowed,” but Murai said the issue is not the intent of the banner, but how it is perceived by others.
“More than what was meant by the people who made it, the expression carries meaning that is perceived as being racist,” Murai said.
The club has identified those responsible for the banner and has questioned them. Reds are also looking into allegations that racist expressions were also made during the game. According to the club, those responsible for the banner said, “It’s intent was not racist.”