Football associations and clubs urged to fight racism

UEFA to back referees who stop games because of racist behaviour by fans 6th March 2009: Participants at the just concluded third Unite Against Racism conference in Warsaw have pledged to reinforce the battle against discrimination and intolerance in football.

Footballers and parents were challenged to set an example for younger generations to follow, reported.

UEFA, the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network and the player’s union FIFPro joined forces with delegates from associations, leagues, clubs, players’ and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the media and the world of politics to share ideas, seek solutions and common approaches and take the struggle forward against a phenomenon that sadly continues to exist within football – and society.

"Racism is not only a football problem", said Willi Lemke, United Nations Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace and a former long-serving general manager of German club Werder Bremen. "Racism is also a problem of society – of all of us.

"We as parents are role models, it is not only the superstars of football," he added. "Education plays such an important role, we have to set an example for our children. Unfortunately, however, many people don’t behave in this manner."

Paul Elliott, the former defender who played, among others, for Chelsea FC, Celtic FC and Pisa Calcio, and is now a prominent anti-racism campaigner, said: "We have to conduct ourselves as parents, and I have to influence my children in a right and positive way."

He went on to say that "Footballers also have a great role to play because of their fantastic influence on young people, especially when they go to talk at schools, and this must continue."

UEFA adviser to the President, William Gaillard called for continued and concerted action against racism by the football family. "We urge football associations and clubs all over Europe to do their share in the fight against racism and discrimination," he said.

He added that referees would be given backing if they wished to take measures against racist behaviour by fans. "In November 2007, our President [Michel Platini] wrote a letter to referee and match officials, emphasising his support for match officials who take drastic measures when they are faced with drastic problems – and such drastic measures could include stopping a game," he said. "Whatever decision [referees] take in a situation when we are faced with racism, the President will back them."

Lilian Thuram, the most-capped player for France and now a passionate anti-racism campaigner told the delegates in a Q&A session: “We talk about racism in football as if it existed only in stadiums, but it exists also in society. To combat racism first, we must understand that racism is part of our culture. Unfortunately some people think there is not that much racism around today. I think there has been a lack of courage to see things how they are. We have to look at our history then deconstruct the prejudices we all have. The fact that [Barack] Obama is [United States] president clearly changes things. Racism is in the imagination – it is how you imagine others. With Obama as president, it will challenge people’s imaginations. Think back to the 1950s and [civil-rights activist] Rosa Parks, who could not take a seat on the bus – and yet 50 years later, [the United States] can elect a black president.”

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