Italian conference calls for more opportunities for refugees in sport13 February 2017

ThePresidencyoftheCouncilofMinistersinItalywelcomedonMonday,13February,apublicdebate ontheinclusionofrefugeesandasylumseekersthroughsportorganisedby UISPand LiberiNantesinpartnershipwithFareand Unar-UfficioNazionaleAntidiscriminazioniRazzialiinRome.

During three panels the conference called “L’Europa il Calcio e i rifugiati. Iniziative, regole ed esperienze di inclusione attraverso il gioco” (in ENG “Europe, Football and Refugees. Experiences, rules and actions of social inclusion through the game”) explored how Europe is integrating refugees, through the perspectives of grassroots organisations, regulatory bodies, and governmental and sporting authorities.

Raffaella Chiodo, of UISP and current Chair of the Fare Board, opened the event by highlighting the importance of sport projects to assist refugees and said: “With this event we want to a make point about the relationship between football and refugees. Football is at the forefront of initiatives that use sport as tool for social inclusion. Football is at the forefront of initiatives that use sport as tool for social inclusion.”

The event shared best practice from Fare members in Italy, England and Austria and also looked at national issues, including Italy’s current laws that limit refugees’ access to sport.

“The current system does not provide answers nor opportunities to those who arrive to Italy, only survival, and the rules at amateur football do not allow refugees to register to play”, explained Alberto Urbinati of Liberi Nantes, a refugee-only team playing in the Roman third league.

To play in Italy at amateur level, non-EU players need an international transfer certificate, a residence permit and proof of residency, and there are restrictions on the number of non- EU players allowed within amateur teams. All of these requirements hinder the chances of refugees and asylum seekers participating in sport. 

“The current legislation serves a purpose and were are not against it, but we are here to ask you to open the doors to refugees and make it easier for them to join teams” added Urbinati.

Fare Executive Director, Piara Powar, gave an overview of the legal and policy issues that act to block opportunities to registration for refugees and added the support of Fare to continue to lobby governing bodies and policy makes to recognise the importance of inclusion.

Other keynote speakers included the head of Football Social Responsibility at UEFA Patrick Gasser, Italian FA (FIGC) diversity and inclusion delegate and former Olympic athlete Fiona May, Mauro Valeri of UNAR, United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) delegate Alessandra Morelli and Ilaria Pasqui, head of the legal department of the Italian Players’ Association.

To co-ordinate further action UISP will call together a working group of actors in Italy to seek solutions to the issues identified.

The conference was preceded by a meeting of the Fare Board in the Italian capital. The meeting received reports of the workof the secretariat including updates on the 2016 Football People action weeks, anti-discrimination observer scheme with both FIFA and agreed end of year accounts.