A formal resolution on tackling racism in football has been adopted by the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
Call for action
An impressive 423 members (MEPs) of the 732-member European Parliament have signed the written declaration, which now becomes an official resolution as a result. European parliament president Josep Borrell, MEPs, anti-racist campaigners and representatives of European football – including UEFA communications and public affairs director William Gaillard – were present.
It follows intensive lobbying of MEPs by anti-racist campaigners, including UEFA's partner in the drive to eliminate racism from the game, the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network. In adopting the resolution, the European Parliament "commends the excellent work that organisations, including UEFA and FARE, have done in tackling these problems".
The resolution condemns all forms of racism and calls on all within football to play their part while asking for tougher sanctions against racial abuse on and off the pitch. Football authorities, including UEFA, are being urged to introduce sporting sanctions, such as excluding clubs from competitions, while those with a high profile in football - above all players and coaches - have been encouraged to speak out.
UEFA is already at the forefront of a concerted effort to combat racism. Among other things, the UEFA Executive Committee has issued its own declaration and the body donates a considerable sum to FARE to help the network in its activities. UEFA has also published a guide to good practice against racism, and helped stage a keynote anti-racism conference in Barcelona in January.
Five MEPs are behind the declaration - Emine Bozkurt (European Socialists Party/Netherlands), Chris Heaton-Harris (European People's Party/UK), Cem Özdemir (Greens/Germany), Alexander Nuno Alvaro (Liberals and Democrats/Germany) Claude Moraes (European Socialists/UK).
"It is a sad reflection on our world that racism continues to blight the beautiful game," the MEPs said. "Football is not the cause of racism, but it is in our stadiums and on our pitches that some of the most visible and violent abuse takes place. We take great encouragement from the work of UEFA, FARE and the other organisations that are committed to fighting racism in football. They have understood that football has a special responsibility – and again, an opportunity - to tackle the problem."
FARE spokesman Piara Powar said: "Momentum to tackle the highly-visible problems of racism has been growing for some time. In recent weeks we have seen the Pope declare his disgust at events in Italy and a United Nations human rights special investigator raise concerns at the levels of racism in the game. Our hope would be that the resolution could play a significant role in encouraging and endorsing action at all levels of Europe, from football administrators to national governments."
Welcomed by players
The edict has also been welcomed in players' circles. Paul Elliot, a former Chelsea FC and Celtic FC defender who is now a key figure within the European anti-racist movement, said: "As a player I faced racial abuse on the pitch in a number of different European countries. This is why I am passionate about ensuring that the next generation of players – across the continent and world – do not have to endure the same abuse I did."
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