2005 in review17 January 2006

UEFA toughens up
2005 saw FARE’s relationship with European Football’s governing body, UEFA, develop further. Early in 2005, UEFA renewed its charity donation to FARE, funding that underpins all our important work. UEFA’s Director of Communications, William Gaillard, said of the relationship with FARE,
“We recognise the need to be working alongside those who have specialist knowledge and understand the problems. We will continue to give leadership to make sure the problem is foremost in the minds of European football. Much still needs to be done but our determination is clear.”

Meanwhile within UEFA, its resolve to purge the game of the blight of racism became stronger than ever, with a new zero tolerance policy on racism and the possibility of clubs being expelled from UEFA competitions for repeat offences. In once instance, UEFA increased the punishment dealt to Steaua Bucharest after reconsidering the severity of the abuse and the club’s inaction.

Rain fails to dampen Mondiali spirits
The 2005 Mondiali Antirazzisti (Anti-racist world cup) was the biggest yet, with 192 teams travelling from more than 25 countries, all coming together in a festival of football and unity. Torrential rain failed to dampen spirits with the 6000 people who attended.

Nike step in
After being referred to in a racist and derogatory way by Spain coach Luis Aragones in the autumn of 2004, Arsenal Striker Thierry Henry spearheaded Nike’s “Stand Up Speak Up” campaign against racism in football.

Henry was joined by Ferdinand, Ronaldhino, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Claude Makalele, Philip Mexes, Carlos Puyol, Roberto Carlos, Christoph Metzelder, Otto Addo, Adriano and Fabio Cannavaro; in European-wide advertising calling on ordinary descent people to stand up and be counted. Millions of Euros were raised from the sale of the quick-to-sell-out interlocking black & white wristbands – money that is now being ploughed back into grass-roots anti-racist campaigns.

Building the network
In spring, the FARE conference in Bratislava brought together grass-roots organisations to coordinate efforts and share good practice. The conference was particularly successful in attracting many new Eastern-European groups, many of which have since joined the FARE Network.

At the Conference media briefing, UEFA Director of Communications, William Gaillard said that fighting racism was UEFA´s number one social objective. “Whilst football cannot solve the problem of racism in society, we can use it to reach sections of the population who may otherwise not be reached. This conference is important for raising awareness”, he added.

Most successful Action Week yet
Europe’s biggest anti-racism campaign, became even bigger during 2005. The 6th FARE Action Week against racism and discrimination in football, involved many hundreds of fan groups, clubs and community groups; in over 35 countries. The range of activities dramatically increased, with many new groups from the former Soviet Union, the Balkans becoming involved. After some disturbing scenes of abuse, most welcome were the Spanish ultra groups, who came together for the first time to coordinate their Action Week Activities.

UEFA lent their full weight of the organisation for the cause. All their Champions League games during the week featured high profile activities viewed by hundreds of thousands in the stadiums, and many millions more via TV. Meanwhile, the UEFA staff team got stuck right in by playing their eagerly awaited annual football match.

Inappropriate Gestures
Aging Lazio striker, Di Canio started the year as he ended it, with international outrage over his fascist salute after the Rome derby. He was fined €10,000 on that instance by the Italian League disciplinary commission who concluded that the gesture had “Immediately and unequivocally recalled a previous political ideology.”

Unwilling to learn from his mistakes, the self-confessed Mussolini admirer again courted controversy when towards the end of the same year he repeatedly made “Straight-armed Roman salutes” to some right-wing Lazio fans. Anti-racist campaigners and Italian Jewish groups were incensed by the actions, whilst FIFA has asked for details of the incidents from the Italian FA.

Moving forward
2006 promises to be another step forward in the challenge to eliminate racism from the game. After the success of FARE campaign during Euro 2004, the World Cup later this year, on European soil, presents a unique opportunity for fans of all nationalities to come together in a positive way.

All ready, final preparations are being made for UEFA’s 2nd conference against racism. After the success of the first conference in 2003 at Chelsea, this one to be hosted at Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium promises to be even better. Influential figures from across Europe’s football associations, clubs and political arenas; will meet with campaigners and grass-roots activists to devise practical solutions to the problems.

Although significant steps have been achieved, there is still much work to do, so that everybody can enjoy the game without the scourge of racism.