2003 began with FARE forging even stronger links with UEFA. The fruits of this working relationship began to pay off. In January, UEFA introduced racism into the curriculum for their international referees.
In March, after months of preparation by FARE, UEFA and The (English) FA; the hugely successful “Unite Against Racism” conference was held at Chelsea FC’s Stamford Bridge ground. The high profile conference attracted officials and players from top European football clubs, together with representatives from all of Europe’s national football associations. As well as facilitating proceedings, groups from around the FARE network were their to share their experience of racism in football and examples of their initiatives to combat it.
Following the conference, UEFA made financial help available to all European national football associations to use in combating racism. FARE acted as consultants with the FAs, to ensure that their anti-racist initiatives were effective.
The year proceeded, with UEFA continuing to fine clubs and FAs whose fans racially abuse players. After the abuse suffered by English players in late 2002, mid 2003 saw a disappointing reversal of fortunes as England fans dished out racist abuse during their Euro 2004™ qualifying match against Turkey. UEFA fined England’s FA a record €99,000, the highest ever for a racism-related charge. Sadly, 2003 saw many more incidents of racism at both club and international level.
UEFA continued its “Unite Against Racism” drive throughout the year. They promoted the FARE network and launched anti-racist initiatives at both the UEFA Cup & Champions League finals. In July, their published a joint “Good Practice Guide” with FARE. The key aim of the guide is to highlight examples of good practice by fans, clubs, players and organisations; in the hope that new initiatives will be started. UEFA distributed the guide to all of Europe's FAs, leagues, clubs, referees, match delegates and venue directors
“Racism is an evil. I can find no other way to describe it. It must be eradicated. UEFA is not willing to accept any incidents of racism, or broader expressions of racial prejudice or exclusion, without challenge.”
Gerhard Aigner, UEFA CEO in 2003.
2003 saw the most successful “Mondiali” yet. The anti-racist world cup has been held in Italy since 1997. It is organised by FARE partners Progetto Ultrà, UISP and Istoreco; with financial support from FARE. It is an opportunity for football fans from across the continent to come together in a friendly tournament. In 2003, over 4,000 participants formed 160 teams for the tournament.
FARE saw record participation in the 2003 action week against racism and discrimination in football. In 23 countries, more than 300 fan groups, clubs, national associations and ethnic minority & migrant organisations got involved in the Action Week.
Particularly encouraging was the strong involvement of football governing bodies and the anti-racist initiatives in Central and Eastern Europe, some of them countries where racism inside football stadiums is at epidemic levels. The involvement of all 92 English professional football clubs constituted a highlight of FARE’s efforts to kick racism out of the game. For the first time big clubs from the Netherlands joined the FARE campaign.
UEFA not only backed the FARE Action Week financially but also personally: UEFA staff footballers played a team from the Geneva-based Africa-Suisse sporting organisation at the Stade de Colovray in Nyon. European football's governing body also displayed an exhibition prepared by FARE at the entrance to its House of European Football in Nyon.
Following FARE’s MTV “Free Your Mind” Award in 2002, in late 2003 we received the first Jean Kahn Award for exemplary work to combat racism. The Award was presented by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), an European Union body based in Vienna and sponsored by the Evens Foundation. It was in recognition of an outstanding contribution to combating racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. FARE’s innovative work in football which includes raising awareness and educational activities at the grass roots and European level, particularly impressed the Jean Kahn Award jury.
Non of FARE’s work would have been possible without the hard work of dedicated football fans throughout Europe. Although racism is an issue affecting all of the game – the terraces, the players, the board rooms and the authorities; it is the initiatives from the fans at the grass-roots level that have the greatest impact at combating racism. With their support, FARE will go from strength to strength in 2004.