The profile of the campaign against racism and discrimination in Romania has dramatically improved recently. Following the bitter medicine of a severe punishment from UEFA, there is now a growing awareness and debate about racism and anti-gypsyism in the country.
On Friday 8 September 2005, following the disturbing racist incidents of Steaua Bucuresti fans, UEFA announced that it would increase their initial punishment of a fine to a suspension of Steaua Bucuresti’s stadium for their next UEFA game. This is the first time a stadium has been suspended for racist acts, an indication of UEFA’s desire to rid the game of this disease. The drastic actions followed UEFA President Lennart Johannson’s declaration,
“We are concerned about racism, particularly in Bulgaria and Romania.”
In Romania the news provoked an open debate about racism, perhaps the first of its kind. Despite an initial defensive reaction, most of the Romanian mass media has responded with articles on the problems of racism in sport, which has been largely ignored until this point. UEFA’s action has raised unprecedented awareness and debate on the issue.
Campaigners there, such as the European Roma Information Office (EIRO) and The Romanian National Council Against Discrimination (CNCD) have been flooded by phone calls from Romanian TV stations, radios and newspapers in regard to racism and especially anti-Gypsyism in Romania and in the stadiums. For the first time they have had the opportunity to promote a pro-tolerance message and talk openly about racist and anti-Romani prejudices using major mass media outlets in Romania.
The dirge of racism plagues stadiums all across Europe. However, in recent years there has been a concerted effort to rid the game of this abusive influence. With campaigns firmly established in most countries, there is now a desire to kick-start and support campaigns in eastern European countries. Indeed, FARE’s recent conference held in Bratislava, prioritised Eastern Europe and the campaign against the racism that the Roma people face. FARE have been tirelessly working with groups, such as CNCD to get anti-racism on the agenda. Although UEFA’s punishment may have seemed harsh, it has certainly given the campaign a jolt in Romania.