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World Cup 2018 and racism: How will FIFA police discrimination in Russia?

The 2018 World Cup in Russia begins in less than a week and, before a ball has even been kicked, the issue of racism and how FIFA will act in the event of players being subjected to discriminatory chants, has been raised.

England defender Danny Rose has spoken about the prospect of he and his teammates walking off the pitch in the event of players being targeted -- a scenario played down by England manager Gareth Southgate -- while FIFA president Gianni Infantino has insisted that plans are in place to deal with any outbreak of racism during the tournament.

Russian football has had to fight long and hard to clean up its reputation in terms of racism in football, so how prepared is the country and FIFA ahead of the World Cup?

Here are the key questions.

Q: What is the background to the concerns about discriminatory chanting in Russia?

A: There have been several recent incidents in Russia during which black players were subjected to abusive chants and banners.

Yaya Toure experienced racial abuse while playing for Manchester City against CSKA Moscow in October 2013, while the likes of Samuel Eto'o, Roberto Carlos, Christopher Samba and Peter Odemwingie also reported similar incidents while playing for Russian clubs.

In Sept 2016, the Fare network, which monitors racist incidents for UEFA, noted that a banana was thrown onto the pitch in the eighth minute of a Champions League tie in Russia between FC Rostov and PSV Eindhoven and remained there for a further 15 minutes before being removed.

Q: Has Russia taken steps to eradicate the problem?

A: The Russian Football Union (RFU) has a commissioner on racism in football and Vitaly Mutko, the deputy prime minister and former minister for sport, insisted ahead of last year's Confederations Cup that Russia has a "zero tolerance" approach to racism.

"For us in Russia, it is a challenge and a responsibility," Mutko said. "And I think that this is a perfect solution. FIFA has no compromises, zero tolerance. As for Russia, the Russian Federation and Russian football have taken similar measures, stricter measures in Russia. This is a problem that is not purely Russian. It exists everywhere in the world and, of course, FIFA is fighting this phenomenon. We will support FIFA and in our joint efforts we will try to conqueror this."

Q: How will FIFA deal with incidents of racism during the World Cup?

A: FIFA introduced a three-step procedure in 2017 that leaves the responsibility in the hands of the match officials should racist chanting -- or any other signs of racist acts -- occur during a game.

Primarily, referees have the authority to stop the match and request a public announcement calling for discriminatory behaviour to cease. If that fails, the referee can suspend the game until the behaviour stops, followed by another announcement, before officially abandoning the match if the situation continues.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has promised unspecificied "serious consequences" if incidents of racism occur during the World Cup.

"I wouldn't say that I am concerned about discrimination, human rights or security, but obviously we take this very, very seriously and we've taken appropriate measures," Infantino said. "In terms of discrimination, we will have clear procedures in place, including a three-step process for referees who can stop, suspend or even abandon a match in case of discrimination. We have a monitoring system and then immediate sanctions if something happens. We obviously wish that doesn't happen and everyone has been warned that if it happens there will be serious consequences."

Q: What is the background to Rose's comments?

A: The Tottenham defender has spoken publicly about telling his family that he does not want them to travel to Russia due to concerns over their safety during the tournament.

He also described as "laughable" and "disgusting" FIFA's punishment of fining the RFU 30,000 Swiss Francs (about $30,000) following discriminatory chanting towards France's black players during a friendly against Russia in St Petersburg in March.

Q: Rose also suggested that England's players could walk off the pitch if targeted by racist chanting. Southgate insisted the team would not do this, so what would happen if they did?

A: This remains a matter of conjecture. Southgate said that England risked being thrown out of the tournament if the players walked off the pitch, but there is no clear ruling to support this happening during the World Cup.

The Laws of the Game suggest that a team walking off the pitch would forfeit the match and lead to the referee abandoning the game and awarding the win to the team which remains on the field.

Whether a team would be thrown out of the World Cup in such an instance remains unclear. But one thing is clear: In the event of discriminatory action, FIFA want the referee (and his assistants) to make the key decisions.