Dutch authorities commit €14million to combat racism in football10 February 2020


The government of the Netherlands and the Dutch FA (the KNVB) are spending 14 million euros to combat racism and other forms of discrimination in football, they announced on Saturday. The amount is being spent on a three-year “attack plan” that focuses on prevention, enforcement and detection.

Bruno Bruins, the Dutch Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport, made the announcement at a launch in the canteen of amateur football club Zeeburgia, which has its home base in the multicultural Amsterdam-Oost district. The announcement was made by politicians and KNVB directors, but also featured Dutch legend Edgar Davids and Ahmad Mendes Moreira.

‘A confrontation with reality’

The plan, which is the largest single financial commitment to tackle discrimination in football ever seen, comes after the country went into shock following the racial abuse of 24 year old Excelsior winger Ahmad Mendes Moreira during the second division Den Bosch v Excelsior fixture last November.

The match was temporally abandoned after Moreira was taunted as ‘cancer black’, ‘cancer n*****’ and ‘Zwarte Piet‘ by a large section of the crowd. The player left the pitch in tears [link to footage of incident]. The following weekend all teams in the Netherlands’ top two divisions agreed not to play in the first minute of games to draw attention to racism.

The incident was an eye-opener, a new confrontation with reality”, admitted Wouter Koolmees, the Minister of Social Affairs, at the launch.

20 measures put together over two months

The KNVB and government plan, called ’Our football belongs to everyone’, was drawn up over two months, said the KNVB. “Experts from inside and outside football have worked hard together with the national government to arrive at a concrete and national approach for both amateur and professional football. In coordination with the Eredivisie, Keuken Kampioen Division and social interest groups, a powerful multi-year policy programme has been drawn up”.

The plan (read it here in Dutch) consists of twenty measures, including:

  • More use made of cameras and ‘smart technology’ inside professional and amateur stadiums
  • An app will be launched through which fans can make reports for immediate action by stewards
  • 600 amateur clubs and 34 professional football clubs will be given a training programme to raise awareness and educate for behavioural change
  • NGOs such as Anne Frank House and the national anti- discrimination action agency Article 1 are being offered funding to support the plan
  • There will be a special prosecutor for racism cases for both amateur and professional football and offenders should be prosecuted more often. Currently this only happens in one in twenty cases
  • The stadium bans for those caught will be doubled to 10 years
  • Clubs that do not do enough to fight discrimination can be punished with points deduction, a fine or playing matches without an audience
  • Players can be suspended for a longer period of time, for both matches and training sessions

‘We are very white’ admit the KNVB

During the press conference, the KNVB also acknowledged its own failings: ‘We are a very white organisation and therefore not a reflection of society. We want to work on that too.”

Edgar Davids reinforced the FA’s admission. “The KNVB has to look at itself.” He referred to racism in football as “a very deep wound that needs to be disinfected. And we need to look at the cause of the tumour.”

John Olivieira, the Chair of the Fare network, who attended the launch said, “I really see it as an outstretched hand. And that’s a good start.

“I am glad the KNVB has just acknowledged that they are missing diversity in their organisation. And that doesn’t only apply to the KNVB, with the exception of a few coaches and directors in professional football, most people in leadership are all white.”

‘Racism becomes visible at the top but starts with 7 year olds’

“Racism is not just a problem in professional football. It becomes visible there, in the stands, by the masses, but it starts on a Saturday morning, at matches of seven-year-old boys and, more importantly, their parents. It’s a structural problem in amateur football.”

Karin Blankenstein, chair of long-term Fare members, the John Blankenstein Foundation, who work for LGBTQ+ rights commented, “It’s great that so many parties are working together on this plan, but don’t forget the important role the media has.

“When captains wore the rainbow armband in October, on the annual day for diversity, FC Utrecht supporters sang ‘all farmers are gay’ to PSV fans. At Fox Sports that day, they had a nice rainbow-guard on the microphone, but no reporter mentioned those songs afterwards. It’s easy to speak out against discrimination, but we all have a role to tackle it”.

Marjan Olfers, Professor of Sport and Law at the Free University, expressed reservations about privacy, “All in all, it’s a good plan, but the implementation still needs careful thought. For example, an app seems to me to be problematic in terms of privacy. Where does that data go? Who keeps it? It has to be handled carefully.

“The same goes for cameras at amateur clubs. We don’t want a big brother on amateur fields. Should we be able to capture everything? That seems disproportionate. Besides, you have to make sure that that data is only used for security and not for other purposes.”

READ: “Something really needs to change”, says Mendes Moreira