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Racism, intolerance, discrimination – three negative phenomena that continue to make themselves felt within football, on and off the field. For ten years now, UEFA has worked hand in hand with the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network in an unstinting campaign to drive such influences from the game.
UEFA has continually reinforced its stand against racism and, together with FARE and the players' body FIFPro, has actively supported initiatives that try to banish this evil from football and society.
The FARE network comprises groups and bodies working against intolerance and discrimination across the continent. Over the last decade, since the signing of a formal agreement in 2001, UEFA has given considerable financial backing to FARE, and both bodies have cooperated in staging events, issuing publications, and using the massive public and commercial platform of Europe's biggest football matches to press home a message of zero tolerance for any form of racism and discrimination, in favour of more respect for diversity.
This week, the European club game's two major competitions, the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League, will also provide the setting for UEFA to raise awareness of its own Unite Against Racism campaign and to highlight its zero-tolerance policy against those who indulge in such behaviour. The activities are part of the 12th FARE Action Weeks, which run until 25 October and feature events involving fans, players, clubs, associations and the sports media.
At all 16 UEFA Champions League matches, a 30-second "No to Racism" giant screen advert will be shown and tannoy announcements will be made before each game. Every team will be accompanied onto the pitch by children wearing Unite Against Racism T-shirts and the captains will be asked to wear a Unite Against Racism branded armband. The activities will be witnessed by thousands of fans in the stadiums and millions more on television.
There have been many victories in the fight against racism in football – but the fight goes on. The executive director of FARE, Piara Powar, expresses satisfaction with what has been achieved yet underlines that the battle continues. "I think it has been a very productive decade for us, working with the European governing body, for two reasons," he told UEFA.com.
"One, to allow us to get out our message more efficiently, to get it out in a targeted way, and to work with the football family in a united front to say 'this is an issue that we have and these are the things we are doing about it'. And secondly, because unfortunately there remains a problem of racism and other forms of discrimination in the game. So seeing it from a very practical point of view, it's a problem that needs to be addressed. I think we have made some good progress in getting some very strong messages out there, mixing them with positive solutions and showing that sort of united front."
This unity will come to the fore on the highest club football stage this week as part of the Action Weeks, which have already proved their worth as catalysts in making the public fully aware that racism and its offshoots have no place in football, or elsewhere for that matter. Clubs around the continent are being encouraged once again to challenge discrimination and encourage initiatives that confront these problems.
"I think for [FARE], the Action Week is a good example of the way we want to work; which is that there's a groundswell of action at the grassroots," said Powar. "We have ordinary community groups, fans, small clubs taking part, from the grassroots all the way to the top. And then from the top we have the message from UEFA, the using of the competitions – particularly the Champions League – and the television audience that we get there, to send out this very strong decisive message. So I think that's a great example of the partnership."
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