The European Commission’s leading voice on issues related to sport, culture and youth has called for urgent action by sports governing bodies to reflect society or risk becoming detached.
Speaking at a conference in the European Parliament organized by the FARE network with Emine Bozkurt MEP, Commissoner Androulla Vassiliou urged sports governing bodies to “better reflect the diversity of their own stakeholders. In any part of society, the institutions of government can quickly lose legitimacy when their culture and language lose touch with their people”.
Her comments came as part of a speech on discrimination and match fixing in sport on the 22nd September as a range of speakers from the world of sport, civil society and Parliamentarians joined her in understanding good practice examples of how to tackle discrimination in sport and a look at future challenges.
‘We are all aware of the scale of the challenge’
The event heard speakers from Dutch gay sports body Alliantie Gelijkspelen, the Sport et Cityenette think tank on Women in Sport, FARE Board member Valeriu Nicolae from the Policy Institute on the Roma situation, FARE ambassador and former Chelsea FC captain Paul Elliott, and advisor to the UEFA president, William Gaillard in a discussion moderated by BBC pundit Garth Crooks.
The Commissioner acknowledged the social problems facing sport and commended the efforts of actvists,
“I know that we are all aware of the scale of the challenge. The determination of the FARE network and organisations like UEFA to confront these problems shows that sport can help to turn the tide.
“I know that several of you here today have worked long and hard as ambassadors for the FARE network. You have taken part in countless Action Weeks and Campaigns. You have stood up and made yourself heard. We all know that there is still a lot to be done, but your efforts can really make a difference.”
‘Racism in football is a crime with millions of witnesses’
Emine Bozkurt MEP, a Social Democrat Member of the European Parliament who has long been a friend of the FARE network said,
“Racism in football is a crime, a crime with millions of witnesses. Football sends out strong signals to society. Therefore it is important that this problem is finally being tackled. Like any other worker, a football player has the right to a discrimination-free work environment.”
During the session William Gaillard advisor to Michel Platini of UEFA offered a clear perspective to the growing issues of discrimination in sport,
“At the moment, we are living through a difficult financial and economic crisis. The groups most threatened are the ones who are least protected in our society – migrants, minorities and women, who are the first to be put in a precarious position. Everyone feels that it is important that sport takes the lead in protecting these groups that are the most weakened by the crisis.”
Action Weeks theme
Commissioner Vassilou and Emine Bozkurt both put their names behind the Football People campaign that aims to celebrate diversity in European football. This years FARE Action Weeks are themed Football People as a means of highlighting discrimination and celebrating diversity in the game across Europe.