Thursday 21 March 2024, 17:50

FIFA stepping up anti-discrimination fight as UN marks International Day for the Elimination of Racism

  • FIFA has committed to stepping up its anti-discrimination efforts

  • FIFA President Gianni Infantino has called for a united front in a bid to rid football of racism

  • 21 March marks International Day for the Elimination of Racism

FIFA continues to ramp up its fight to rid football of racism as its No Discrimination campaign partner, United Nations Human Rights, marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racism on 21 March.

No Discrimination is an awareness, action and education campaign that aims to rid the football world of discrimination in any and every form. Launched at the FIFA World Cup 2022™, the campaign has been rolled out at nine FIFA tournaments since, with its powerful and unequivocal message displayed on the big screens and pitchside advertising boards inside stadiums.

As part of the No Discrimination campaign, FIFA launched the Social Media Protection Service (SMPS). Aimed at protecting players, teams and officials from online abuse, the SMPS has analysed some 28 million posts, and shielded over 6,000 accounts from more than 400,000 abusive comments to date. Almost 30,000 abusive comments, including racist abuse, were so serious in nature they were reported to the respective social media platform on which they were published.

“Building on the success of the SMPS’s first year of operation, FIFA has committed to extending the service by offering all 211 member associations year-round access. This includes proactive monitoring and reporting to platforms on behalf of players, teams, coaches, and match officials taking part in FIFA-affiliated competitions,” FIFA Secretary General ad interim Mattias Grafström wrote in a circular to all FIFA Member Associations (MAs) sent on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this year.

“FIFA invites all member associations to protect their social media accounts from racial hate and other forms of abuse.”

The reporting of abuse to social media platforms triggered real-world repercussions for their authors, including account suspensions. Removing the sense of impunity and advocating consequences to racist acts is something FIFA President Gianni Infantino has strongly and vocally supported. He stood in solidarity with Vinícius Júnior in June 2023 after the Brazil and Real Madrid CF star was racially abused while playing for his club.

Echoing a message he has given MAs, Mr Infantino encouraged match officials to make use of FIFA’s three-step procedure, which means referees can first stop, then suspend, and ultimately abandon games if racist behaviour persists despite in-stadium announcements asking for it to stop.

"There is no football if there is racism! So let’s stop the games," he said in reference to the procedure, which was introduced at the FIFA World Cup 2018™ in addition to three anti-discrimination match observers per game. "The referees have this opportunity in FIFA competitions as we have this process for stopping the game, and actions have to be taken at every level, at national level as well. Everyone has to understand this and we will go, together, until the end."

FIFA’s social responsibility, notably in the sphere of human rights, is prominent in FIFA’s strategic objectives announced last year. Mr Infantino has ensured it has remained highly visible on the organisation’s public face.

During his meeting with Vinícius Júnior, he had announced he would form a Task Force comprised of current and former players to learn from their experiences of racism in the game, and solicit their ideas on how best to combat it.

Mr. Infantino is currently seeking input from all major stakeholders with the aim of presenting the 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok, Thailand, on 17 May, with what he called “a strong resolution” when he spoke to FIFA’s 55 European MAs at the 48th Ordinary UEFA Congress in Paris, France, on 8 February.

“We say that football unites the world, but our world is divided, our world is aggressive, and in the last few weeks and months, we have witnessed, unfortunately, a lot of racist incidents. This is not acceptable anymore. We have to stop this, and we have to do whatever we can to stop this. Racism is a crime. Racism is something terrible,” said the FIFA President.

“What I suggest to you, in addition to all this, is that we work all together in the next three months before the FIFA Congress in May in Bangkok. And at the Congress in May in Bangkok, we come all together with a strong resolution, united, all together, all 211 countries of FIFA, for the fight against racism. Let's stop racism. Let's stop it now. Let's do it all together in a united way.”

In addition to the top-line work FIFA does with its UN partner, schools and youth organisations can also take advantage of FIFA’s range of educational materials on the issue.

A host of explanatory and educational videos are available on (FIFA) in addition to a broad selection of downloadable fact sheets that give insight into FIFA and UN Human Rights’ anti-discrimination collaboration.

No Discrimination