sports gazette

FIFA Disbands Anti-Racism Task Force

Published: 26 Sep 2016

Fifa disbands anti-racism task force ahead of controversial 2018 Russia World Cup.

FIFA has disbanded its anti-racism task force, declaring in a letter to its members that it has “completely fulfilled its temporary mission”.

The task force, established in 2013 by then Fifa president Sepp Blatter, continued to build on public demonstrations such as the ‘say no to racism’ campaign. It has however been under criticism for not doing enough to tackle racist behaviour among fans, particularly at international tournaments.

The move comes just two years before the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia which many fear could see racist demonstrations as well as further clashes between fans.

“Zero tolerance” has been part of Fifa’s public rhetoric on racism for some time. Though Piara Powar, the Executive Director of Football Against Racism in Europe, criticised FIFA for not taking action against incidents of offensive and racist chanting at the 2014 World Cup. This included racist chanting at matches including Russia and Croatia, as well as "blacked up" fans pictured at the Germany vs Ghana match.

"The problem of racism in football remains a burning, very serious and topical one, which needs continuous attention"

The task force has since taken the advice of its members and in 2015 introduced an anti-discrimination monitoring system. This includes match observers who will monitor and report issues of discrimination at games. The system has been in place for World Cup qualifiers and is part of Fifa’s efforts to reduce discriminatory incidents ahead of the World Cup.

It seems strange then that a vital task force such as this would be disbanded ahead of tournaments that will undoubtedly see a spotlight on racism in football. One of the task force members, Osasu Obayiuwana, told the Associated Press on Sunday, “The problem of racism in football remains a burning, very serious and topical one, which needs continuous attention”. This supports calls for a permanent anti-racism force within FIFA.

Fifa however supported their decision, writing to the task force members, “The FIFA Task Force Against Racism and Discrimination was set up with your help on a temporary basis to develop recommendations for FIFA. We are therefore delighted to inform you that all of the task force’s recommendations have been implemented and all resulting projects are ongoing”.

This issue will be much discussed over the coming months and years. Undoubtedly FIFA will have to introduce further efforts to clamp down on racism and discrimination.

What this move could represent is a move away from a relic of the Blatter regime. The task force’s original head was Jeffrey Webb who was arrested last year as part of the US investigation into corruption in world soccer.

Congolese Federation President Constant Amari took over as chairman of the task force; though according to Obayiuwana never held a meeting despite many efforts from members to organise one.

FIFA needs to have a concerted effort against discrimination, though a temporary task force that does not meet, is not the effort world football deserves.

What fans and players need now is a permanent, concentrated effort from FIFA to put pressure on fan bases consistently causing these problems. Match bans were frequently used as threats at this year’s Euro’s and similar threats will surely be made in the future; though an organised effort from FIFA to work with fans, security personnel, and local police is what is really needed.

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