During the two-day event (10th and 11th of September in Rome) organized by UEFA, with the support of the Fare network and FIFPro, the world players’ union, and hosted by the Italian Football Federation, 250 representatives from within football, political and governmental organizations, experts and Fare member delegates representing NGOs and minority groups met in Rome to find solutions and plan actions against discrimination in football.
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The five minute long clip addresses discrimination on the grounds of homophobia, sexism and racism through the personal experiences of three footballers and an anti-discrimination group.
Arsenal Ladies FC and England international Casey Stoney, former Germany international Thomas Hitzlsperger, and Manchester City and Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Touré give testimonies and talk about the way forward to bring about a change.
The Football People video also explores issues around the marginalisation of ethnic minorities in Europe and football’s potential to help overcome social exclusion through the Bucharest-based Policy Center for Roma and Minorities, which works to improve the lives of the Roma communities.
‘We are Football People’
Football associations, professional leagues and clubs, and fellow footballers will be joining Stoney, Hitzlsperger and Touré by lending their support to the largest series of sports anti-discrimination activities in Europe, declaring themselves to be Football People.
The need to tackle racism and homophobia, give voice to minority groups, promote gender and ethnic diversity in leadership positions and empower players to be role models in fighting discrimination were all significant focus points for the 250 delegates last week.
During the two-day event (10 and 11 September) representatives from within football, political and governmental organisations, experts and Fare member delegates representing NGOs and minority groups met in Rome to find solutions and plan action against discrimination in football.
‘The fight against racism is not about gaining popularity’
On his keynote speech UEFA President Michel Platini emphasised football’s role in setting an example for a inclusive society and stressed the need for governing bodies to protect players from discrimination through a zero tolerance policy.
“Football’s extraordinary popularity also brings with it responsibilities that extended far beyond the realms of sport. Football has a duty to convey values that can help make society more diverse.”
Highlighting criticism over the summer Platini said, “Unlike the World Cup in Brazil, our zero tolerance policy is implemented and the guilty are identified and duly punished.
“Because the fight against racism is not about gaining popularity and winning votes, but part of a moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable” he said.
‘You can’t have inclusion without representation’
An all-women panel, including UEFA Executive Committee member Karen Espelund, Cecile Kyenge MEP, former Italian Minister for Integration, Heather Rabbatts, English Football Association board member, and Emine Bozkurt, former Dutch MEP followed Platini’s opening speech and discussed the matter of women and ethnic minorities in football leadership positions.
Appointed in December 2011 as the English FA’s first female and ethnic minority director in 150 years Heather Rabbatts shared efforts to change the face of its “exclusively white, middle-class, middle-aged and all-male board structure”.
“Diversity is the driving force for the development of all organisations,” said Espelund.
“Whether it is as a club, a league or an association, we really need different cultures to make progress and to make sure everyone has the chance to participate.”
Education and inclusion
Focusing on UEFA President’s note on football “as a driver to progress in society”, three good practice examples lead the first day of the conference to an end stressing a key correlation between the sport, education and inclusion.
Andrea Angnelli, President of Juventus, explained the club’s alliance with UNESCO in a global anti-discrimination research project on racism in sport, which also includes a number of awareness-raising actions; representing the Dutch FA Johan van Geign presented their work to address homophobia, which gained visibility after a spot launched in November 2012; Raluca Negulescu from the Bucharest-based Policy Center for Roma and Minorities highlighted the work of NGOs in tackling the situation of Roma around Europe. She spoke of her anger at the marginalisation of Roma groups and outlined a methodology to address issues affecting communities and to empower Europe’s largest ethnic minority through football projects.
Six workshops featuring Fare delegates, experts and representatives of the football family lead the conference second day discussing a range of topics.
These included a focus on new sanctioning rules; a follow-up on the first day’s panel on female and ethnic minority representation in leading positions; working with ethnic minorities to bring about change; tackling homophobia in football and promoting the involvement of the LGBT community; discrimination in Southern Europe, which looked at Mediterranean supporter culture, immigration and discrimination; and National Association action plans, focusing on FA projects and plans to use football to tackle country-specific issues.
The workshop findings were later presented by the six panel Chairs to the general audience.
Heading the workshop on Southern Europe, Fare board member and UISP representative Daniela Conti said: “I am very happy with the workshop, it was very interesting and complete with several Mediterranean countries and different stakeholders represented.
“Ninety minutes seems very long but in the end the issues to discuss were so many that we always end up missing on something. This time perhaps it was the grassroots activities, but for the first time, we had the referees’ voice represented with the presence of Pierluigi Collina”.
Players’ panel calls for long-term action
A panel of players featuring the Dutch legend and former AC Milan coach Clarence Seedorf, AS Roma player Urby Emanuelson, former Ghana International and Fare ambassador Anthony Baffoe, former referee Pierluigi Collina and a testimony from Paris Saint-Germain womens centre back Laura Georges, concluded the two-day event.
In a 10 minute speech Clarence Seedorf made a powerful call for short and long-term action to counter discrimination using as an example of the area of diversity in management positions.
In January 2014, Seedorf made history in the Italian Serie A by becoming the first black manager with AC Milan. After being sacked in June, he brought the spotlight back to the issues of diversity in European professional football.
“How many black players have turned to coaches? We must not look at this with ‘coloured glasses’ because we are all human beings, but we need to take long and short term action and intervention” said Seedorf.
“We need to speak about it [discrimination] and hopefully through those actions, through coming together, we can find solutions to create a better situation than what we have today.”
Keeping the momentum
Participants recognised the importance of keeping the momentum created through the conference to promote diversity and continue to address discrimination.
The conference was also an opportunity to pay tribute and recognise Ghana-born Arthur Wharton as the World’s first black football professional through the presentation of a mini-statue – a reminder of his legacy towards a more diversified football culture.
Over 70 Fare delegates representing 28 European countries met in Rome this week ( on 10 September), ahead of the UEFA 2014 Respect Diversity conference, to receive an update on work progress and to discuss areas of strategy for the coming months.
The meeting, lead by Fare Chairperson Howard Holmes, took a broader look at the organisation’s work for 2014/15 through an update on financial matters, an overview of the Fare Observer Scheme first year outcomes and second season plan; the 2014 Football People action weeks campaign in October and funding opportunities made available to members, such as the newly created ethnic minority grants.
The current three Fare ambassadors, which include the former Ghana international Anthony Baffoe, former England B international and Chelsea captain Paul Elliott and Belgian striking legend Mbo Mpenza, were presented to the delegates along with a plan to approach three female players and an LGBT ambassador over the next year.
On the network’s strategy, Paul Elliott said: “We are all mindful that there have been great changes in the fight against discrimination but also that the challenges have become greater and broader in other areas and so it is pleasing to see Fare’s efforts to expand its network of partners, build relationships and lead the way”.
During the meeting the delegates, selected to reflect the diversity of the networks activities and expertise at the Respect Diversity conference, were advised on the procedures, opportunities and expected outcomes of the event.
A number of wider suggestions, including the development of a ‘report discrimination’ mobile app; the activation of an LGBT group under the Fare umbrella; and the increase of female representation, a long-term goal of Fare, in initiatives such as the Fare Observer scheme, were made and discussed among the participants.
http://ht.ly/BjkY6 Farenet Septmeber 12th 2014
The conference organised by UEFA, with the support of the Fare network and FIFPro, the world player’s union, and hosted by the Italian Football Federation, will bring together football associations, European leagues, clubs, governmental organisations and NGOs from the Fare network.
Platform to share ideas
UEFA President Michel Platini will open the conference with a keynote speech, in which he will set out the approach to issues of discrimination now taken by UEFA.
The conference will provide a platform for participants to share good practice on combating discrimination in different settings and across geographies and it will serve as a sounding board for practical solutions addressing the issue in the future.
Six workshops will take place on the second day on a series of themes that include an overview of the sanctions regime in football, tackling homophobia, working with ethnic minorities, overcoming glass ceilings, discrimination in Southern Europe and how FAs can develop action plans.
The second day of the conference will consist of a players’ panel discussion with a line-up of top current and former and current professional footballers.
Fare delegates will come together for a pre- meeting on the morning of the conference to talk through activities and plan future action, such as the Football People action weeks.
Around 70 people from 28 countries will form the Fare delegation to the event. The attendees will take part in the conference debates and speak in workshops.
“Sport must embrace everyone”
Speaking ahead of the event, Michel Platini said: “Sport must embrace everyone, regardless of colour, faith, sexual orientation or political beliefs. I hope this conference, which we are organising with our partners, will encourage football leaders, coaches, players and fans to work together to stop all forms of discrimination.”
Piara Powar, Executive Director of the Fare network, said: “We are delighted to be working with UEFA on the 2014 Respect Diversity conference. The event brings together UEFA’s 54 member associations and the Fare network to collectively examine the challenges facing us in regards to discrimination and exclusion and to set out best practices. It will influence many associations and NGOs in their future work to ensure we have a sport that has equality and inclusion as a core practice.”
Tony Higgins, FIFPro Division Europe vice-president, said: “FIFPro is very happy to bring the voice of players into the discussion at the Respect Diversity conference. Professional footballers worldwide are in a unique position to help educate and inspire society to accept diversity and respect all cultures.”
Discover Football is represented during the conference as well.