The biggest anti-racism campaign in European sport kicks-off today (October 13th). Over the next 13 days every part of the European footballing community will stand united against racism and discrimination in the game.
The 6th FARE Action Week, organised by the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network, will feature up to one thousand initiatives by campaigners, fans, clubs, national associations, ethnic minority groups and youth groups across Europe.
Launched in the 2001/2002 season with initiatives in 9 countries, the week of action now involves 35 separate countries. The range of activities are set to increase this year with new groups from Eastern and Central Europe including the former Soviet Union and the Balkans (Croatia, Serbia & Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria) getting involved.
More fan groups are now organising themselves to challenge racism. In Spain, following a season where racism in football hit the headlines internationally, Ultra groups have come together for the first time to plan joint activities.
In France, the ‘Réseau Supporter de Resistance Antiraciste’, will be working with members of fan groups throughout the country, organising highly visible activities.
In Germany, groups from Werder Bremen, Hannover 96, Schalke 04, 1860 Munich or Fortuna Duesseldorf will become active during their home-matches.
A greater engagement with minority groups such as the Roma minority in parts of Eastern Europe is now an encouraging feature of the activities.
One of the many success stories this year is the partnership between the Mahatma Gandhi Human Rights Organisation, a respected Hungarian NGO led by ethnic minorities working with Asylum seekers and refugees, and the Hungarian footballing authorities who have come together to co-ordinate a nationwide series of events.
As a result, clubs who historically have had a far- right following will be actively challenging their own supporters.
Anti-racism at centre stage of European club football
The Action Week is channelling the power of football to get a message across to the millions of people touched by game. Through activities at the UEFA Champions League games (18 & 19 October) alone, more than half a million fans will directly engage with a message of inclusion across 16 stadiums.
Leon Mann, from the English FARE member organisation Kick It Out, commented,
“The Action Week is no longer a period just to dust off the anti-racism banners, it is now the spring board for continual engagement between campaigners, fans and ethnic minority groups with Clubs, Leagues and ruling bodies in working towards a game free from racism and inequality.”
“Anti- racism campaigning used to be confined to outside stadiums. We are now inside and are beginning to make our voices heard.”