The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has ruled that Chinese giant Guangzhou Evergrande violated its nondiscrimination rules after fans displayed a banner which referred to “British dogs”, and hit out at the Hong Kong independence movement.
The regional governing body ordered Guangzhou Evergrande to play two future AFC club home matches without spectators. However, the punishment will be suspended for a probationary period of two years. The club was also fined US$22,500 (HK$175,000).
The anti-independence banner, which said “Annihilate British dogs, destroy Hong Kong independence poison” in Chinese, was unfurled during Evergrande’s 6-0 AFC Champions League win over Hong Kong’s Eastern on April 25.
Both head coaches of Evergrande and Eastern said they did not clearly witness the incident. Evergrande’s fan clubs also issued a joint statement claiming the four people who raised the banner were not registered members.
But Eastern’s staff members took photos of the banner and reported it to the Hong Kong Football Association and the AFC, saying that it believed the AFC would investigate the matter fairly and take relevant action.
The AFC then issued a statement saying that it has charged Guangzhou Evergrande.
On Thursday, AFC said Guangzhou Evergrande were found to have violated Article 58 and Article 65 of the AFC Disciplinary and Ethics Code relating to the actions of away supporters.
“Away supporters displayed a banner depicting a discriminatory message relating to national origin and political opinion,” it said.
Article 58 of the AFC’s ethics code says clubs may be forced to play at least two games behind closed doors and could receive a fine of at least US$10,000 (HK$77,800)
The incidents came after the Hong Kong Football Association was twice fined in 2015 by football’s international governing body FIFA, after Hong Kong fans booed the Chinese national anthem during World Cup qualifier games.
As Hong Kong is regarded as a special administrative region of China, the Chinese national anthem is played before games involving the representative team.