Saturday 20 March 2021, 19:08

Infantino: FIFA embraces its responsibility to lead the fight against discrimination

  • Today is The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

  • FIFA is leading football in the global fight against racism

  • Gianni Infantino: “FIFA and football stand united”

Every year on 21 March, the world observes The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The date was chosen by the United Nations to commemorate the Sharpeville Massacre, which took place 61 years ago today when police shot dead 69 people demonstrating peacefully against South Africa’s apartheid ‘pass laws’.

In South Africa and across the world, significant progress has been made in the decades since that shocking tragedy. But the theme of this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, ‘Youth standing up against racism’, reflects the outrage and indignation – particularly among young people – expressed in recent protests against racial injustice.

That sense of purpose has also been seen in the world of football, with players around the world taking a knee to support and raise awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement. FIFA President Gianni Infantino has spoken out publicly to back them in doing so, and has reiterated that football – and FIFA as the game’s governing body – must continue to lead the way in fighting racism.

“Today, and every day, FIFA and football stand united against racism,” the FIFA President said. “There is no place for racial discrimination in football or in society. As the governing body of football worldwide, FIFA recognises and embraces its responsibility to lead the fight against discrimination.

"This fight also relies on the implementation of measures by FIFA, by the continental confederations, and by FIFA’s 211 member associations at the national and local level. As such, FIFA remains determined to work together with our stakeholders to eradicate racism, indeed discrimination and violence of any kind, wherever it still exists."

But what does “leading the way in the fight against discrimination” look like in practice? Under Infantino, it has been a core principle in the implementation of new measures to transform the organisation.

Vision and strategy

  • FIFA’s blueprint for the coming years - Making Football Truly Global: The Vision 2020-2023 - includes two key pillars: ‘Fight against Racism and all other forms of discrimination’ and ‘Protect human rights’. The former includes a commitment to “uproot all forms of discrimination in football by implementing additional anti-discrimination policies, together with grassroots educational programmes and toolkits, to support member associations in addressing these issues”.

  • In line with article 4 of the FIFA Statutes, FIFA’s main and ongoing measures to strengthen diversity and anti-discrimination focus on all characteristics of discrimination, including discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation.

  • The FIFA Good Practice Guide on Diversity and Anti-Discrimination sets out a five-pillar strategy: education, regulations, controls and sanctions, networking and engagement, and communications.

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Those five pillars form the basis for several ongoing FIFA measures to foster and promote anti-discrimination.

Activities and measures

  • FIFA Disciplinary Code: The principle of zero tolerance was updated in 2019. The code clearly states that racism and discrimination have no place in football and that FIFA will not hesitate to tackle any form of discriminatory behaviour. The scope, definition and content have been fully aligned with the highest international standards and the stance of the Fare network (see art. 13 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code).

  • Three-step procedure: This procedure applies to all FIFA competitions and it is recommended that all FIFA member associations use it for their national competitions. Under this procedure, the referee has the authority to first stop the match and request a public announcement asking for the discriminatory behaviour to cease, to suspend the match until the behaviour stops following another warning announcement, and finally, if the behaviour still persists, to decide to abandon the match. As a general rule, a match is automatically forfeited if the referee decides to abandon it after having applied the three-step procedure for a discriminatory incident. Additionally, FIFA has urged all member associations, leagues, clubs and disciplinary bodies to introduce the three-step procedure in their domestic competitions (see FIFA circular 1682).

  • FIFA Anti-Discrimination Monitoring System: FIFA has implemented the anti-discrimination monitoring system to identify discriminatory behaviour at FIFA competitions, including racist incidents. The risk assessments, special match reports and evidence provide a basis for the FIFA Disciplinary Committee in the event of it having to open disciplinary procedures.

  • Guidance for FIFA’s member associations: The FIFA Good Practice Guide on Diversity and Anti-Discrimination supports all FIFA member associations to strengthen their activities to ensure a welcoming atmosphere free of discrimination. FIFA assists member associations to strengthen their approach in terms of regulations, education, sanctions and controls, networking and engagement, and communications, as well as helping them to develop their respective action plans.

  • FIFA Diversity Award and campaigns: In 2016, FIFA created an annual award to recognise an outstanding organisation, initiative or football personality that stands up for diversity and anti discrimination in football at national or international level and on a sustained basis.

  • Diversity and anti-discrimination training: This is undertaken for FIFA match officials, FIFA employees, other staff (such as stewards, food and beverage staff etc) and volunteers at FIFA competitions

Mbo Mpenza, Helena Dalli & Aline Zeler at the launch of the Anti-Racism Action Plan

There have also been fresh efforts to bolster and add to these initiatives in response to discriminatory incidents and the global call for action around the Black Lives Matter movement.

Recent developments

  • FIFA is currently in the process of strengthening its own comprehensive anti-discrimination programme, which is a cornerstone in the governing body’s foundation of proactive measures to promote equality in football.

  • FIFA supported the EU Commission to launch its new Anti-Racism Action Plan on 18 September 2020. FIFA has been working closely with the Commission on the topic of anti-discrimination and will continue to do so in the future. As well as helping to organise the European Commission-hosted event, FIFA was represented by former Belgium striker and FIFA Legend Mbo Mpenza, who shared his experience of racism in Europe during a round-table discussion.

  • In June 2020, amid outrage over the death of George Floyd i a combination of 40 FIFA Legends and current professional footballers, each sporting a black jersey, took the message of #StopRacism, #StopViolence and #StopDiscrimination to social media.

FIFA Legends and footballers unite to #StopRacism

The FIFA World Cup remains the flagship event of men’s football and, with the world’s eyes set to be on Qatar next year, FIFA will grasp the opportunity to put the fight against discrimination front and centre.

FIFA World Cup measures

  • Tailor-made diversity and anti-discrimination training for each target group: match officials, security personnel (stewards, etc), food & beverage staff, hospitality staff, volunteers.

  • Intercultural awareness and anti-discrimination guidance for participants and attendees.

  • Awareness raising with participating member associations.

  • Grievance mechanism for participants and attendees.

  • Procedure for discriminatory incidents including reactive and proactive stadium announcement and the three-step procedure.

  • Anti-discrimination monitoring system with anti-discrimination match observers at all matches.

Players from Sweden and England united in campaigning against racism