UEFA backs MEP’s tougher action on racism01 December 2005

European football’s governing body, UEFA, is backing the European Parliament’s drive to tackle the problem of racism in European football. A group of MEPs have launched a declaration in Brussels commending the work of the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network and calling for tougher action.

The declaration strongly condemns all forms of racism on and off the field, calls upon high profile players and coaches to speak up against the problem, and urges action programmes by FAs, leagues, clubs, players’ unions and supporters’ groups. The declaration will achieve the rare status of a motion if a majority of the 732 MEP’s in the parliament give their backing.

In a statement, the MEPs said,
“It is a sad reflection on our world that racism continues to blight the beautiful game. Football is not the cause of racism, but it is in our stadiums and on our pitches that some of the most visible and violent abuse takes place.

We should see this as an opportunity. The massive popularity of football presents us with the means to reach millions of people and, we must hope, to promote tolerance and understanding. By winning hearts and minds on the terraces and on the pitch, we make a crucial breakthrough in the bigger battle to free society of racism.

No one government or organisation can fight racism alone. It demands the support of every part of society, of every individual. It is a problem that requires close co-operation between the public and private spheres. In the world of football, a similar picture exists. Each member of the family – the associations, leagues, clubs, players, referees and supporters – has its role to play. That is why our declaration calls for a joint effort from everyone that cares about football.

We take great encouragement from the work of UEFA, FARE and the other organisations that are committed to fighting racism in football. They have understood that football has a special responsibility – and again, an opportunity – to tackle the problem.”

UEFA backing
UEFA stressed its desire to toughen sanctions against clubs with racist fans. In additional to UEFA’s existing portfolio of sanctions, clubs, players and national associations could now face expulsion from the game’s competitions. UEFA vice-president Per Ravn Omdal, said, “We are prepared to implement the necessary sanctions, from fines and closure of stadium, and even to not allow teams to participate at all.”

In a week that saw Messina’s Marc Zoro face a barrage of racist abuse in the Italian Serie A league, Omdal has called upon referees to take more action, “Those who did not wake up, you have to wake up – because the referee can do a lot in a specific game. Either to stop it, to listen, to report and eventually to abandon the game if that kind of abuse is taking place.”

Still much to do
The MEPs concluded with a cautionary warning on complacency,
“But now is not the time to relax. We can and must do more. The European Parliament should call on all those with a stake in football to join the fight against racism, and to do what they can in their community.”