UEFA has teamed up with the European Union’s Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia to host an international conference about using sport to combat racism. The conference began on Wednesday 19 May, 2004 in Braga, Portugal – one of the hosting cities of this year’s Euro 2004 competition. Athletes, non-government organisations, local elected representatives of European institutions and academics were all present.
The conference was designed as a forum for the exchange of good practice in the area of combating racism in sport. Delegates discussed what local and regional authorities can do to prevent racism and xenophobia, and how they can organise sporting events which encourage understanding and tolerance.
“We wanted to take advantage of Portugal's high profile as UEFA EURO 2004 host, to show the potential of sport for preventing racism and xenophobia,” said Anders Gustav, chairman of the CoR Commission for Economic and Social Policy (ECOS).
“Europe is becoming increasingly multicultural. Common ground has to be found to bring people together. Sport is a good way of defusing tension. Fair play and respect for others are essential on a football pitch. In addition, there are players of different nationalities in most teams. It is a good example of peaceful coexistence and success.”
Committee of the Regions
The EU’s CoR recently examined the issue of racism in football. In a draft paper, it argues that the success of an elite group of black players at the uppermost level of football has obscured the fact that in English football, as elsewhere, the level of participation amongst ethnic communities in casual street football, school teams and local parks soon diminishes as you move up the ladder.
Set up in 1997 and based in Vienna, the EUMC is a decentralised EU body which helps to combat racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism throughout Europe. The EUMC recently award FARE the prestigious Jean Kahn Award for exemplary work in combating racism.