As a member of international FARE (Football against racism in Europe) network, ADC “Memorial” for several years participates in annual “Weeks against racism in football”, which also organize integration football matches for children of various ethnic backgrounds. On September 10-11, 2014 one of the experts of ADC “Memorial” took part in UEFA “Respect Diversity” conference, which was held in Rome. The conference was organized by UEFA and FARE with active support of FIFPro and Italian football federation (FIGC). The conference gathered over 200 participants from 50 countries. Similar conferences were organized before, for example, in London in 2003 (supported by “Chelsea” football club), in Barcelona in 2006 (supported by FC “Barcelona”), in Warsaw in 2009 and ahead of 2012 World Cup.
This year’s conference in Rome was devoted to implementation of the principles of antiracist resolution adopted by UEFA Congress in London in May 2013, as well as studying the problems of discrimination of ethnic minorities in football, homophobia, lack of broad representation of women and ethnic minorities at the institutional level, presentation of successful practices for fighting against discrimination and drawing up a plan for the next few years, including the upcoming football World Cup 2018, which is to be held in Russia.
UEFA president Michel Platini stated that “until now we were not able to defeat racism, which continues to be present in both our society and football… but UEFA is proud to be an organization fighting against it”. Platini also said that in a world where millions of people are forced to migrate, it is crucially important to liquidate discrimination and promote tolerance, while football remains a wonderful example of diversity in our society. According to UEFA president, enlightenment and dissemination of information are extremely important, while the principle of “zero tolerance to racism” should also be observed. Michel Platini is of the opinion that “in order to fight against discrimination, it is not enough to make speeches and discuss these issues… we will not accomplish much if special infrastructure is not created”. UEFA launched a program “Women in leadership positions”. As part of the conference, women, who occupied high management positions, spoke on the various aspects of discrimination they had faced during their work in leadership positions in various organizations, which fought against racism.
During the conference several working groups held panel discussions. One of them was devoted to the efficiency of education, on the one hand, and efficiency of sanctions, on the other. Its participants stressed the necessity for both the former and the latter and concluded that the role of national football federations and international organizations, as well as media and the language used by commentators of sport events are all extremely important in prevention of racist and discriminatory behavior. Working group that studied the issues related to discrimination at institutional level proposed to analyze positive experience of large sport organizations and introduce quotas (not less than 30-40%) for women – volunteers and referees at football matches.
Participants of the discussion on inclusion of ethnic minorities were presented with various successful practices of establishing Romani football teams in Catalonia and Romania, as well as establishing specialized sport sections for Muslim girls.
At the conference’s closing event players from leading football clubs spoke out. They assured conference participants that intolerance to racism and external support from those, who were not directly influenced by racism, were both very important. Football players thanked the conference participants for their contribution to the struggle against discrimination in football and society as a whole, they expressed their hope that in the next few years we will witness considerable improvement of the situation in this respect.