The closing day of a highly successful FARE conference saw keynote speeches by Jan Figel, European Commissioner for Education, Culture and Multilingualism, William Gaillard, UEFA Director of Communications, and Dusan Tittel, General Secretary of the Slovak Football Association.
Mr. Figel underlined the growing importance of sport in combating racism under the forms of discrimination and said it was vital to encourage grass roots action. He added that the EC would continue to support FARE, saying there would be “even more focused action to achieve what we set out to do. Networking is a key part of this and I would like to say you and us working more together.”
In his speech Mr. Gaillard said UEFA would step up its efforts to encourage national FAs to take up the struggle against racism and discrimination and ensure its Ten Point Plan is applied. UEFA would continue to fund FARE, he added.
Speaking for the Slovak FA, Mr. Tittel said it had implemented a range of anti-racism measures since the scandalous racist chanting aimed at Emile Heskey and Ashley Cole during the Slovakia vs. England game in 2003. Amongst other things the FA was using national players in schools to promote tolerance in Slovak society, he explained.
One of the key issues highlighted by the conference was the plight of the Roma populations, particularly in eastern Europe, where discrimination is openly expressed in all walks of life. Until only recently, the official website of Steaua Bucharest contained discriminatory quotes about Roma and an online game in which players had to kill “Gypsies”.
At various workshops which were held delegates formulated a number of proposals and recommendations for the FARE network. They feel that sanctions and actions from the game’s governing bodies must be more proportionate to the problem because a lack of appropriate action undermines the work of FARE. Conference therefore called for the sacking of Spanish national coach Luis Aragones after his racist remarks against Thierry Henry earned him derisory 3000 euro fine.
In the workshop on sexism and homophobia participants said that highlighting the presence of women and gay & lesbian people in football would strengthen FARE’s position in building the network.
The conference ended with delegates attending the match between ASK Inter Bratislava and MSK Ruzomberok.