UEFA President Michel Platini, Dutch legend Clarence Seedorf and Italian refereeing great Pierluigi Collina joined forces in Warsaw on Wednesday to launch UEFA's Respect campaign for UEFA EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.
Respect, UEFA's social responsibility programme, was launched in 2008, and its objective is to support local communities, tackle social issues and work towards unity and respect across gender, race, religion and ability.
The Respect project at UEFA EURO 2012 is receiving a UEFA financial contribution of up to €3m, and involves four main strands – UEFA's commitment to combat racism (Respect Diversity), increasing and improving access for fans with disabilities (Respect Inclusion), promoting health through physical activity (Respect Your Health), and fostering intercultural dialogue between fans and the host cities (Respect Fan Culture).
UEFA is also promoting the idea of Respect at UEFA EURO 2012 through a jersey-exchanging initiative in which several football luminaries – including Seedorf and Collina – are acting as campaign ambassadors. By linking Respect with swapping shirts, European football's governing body hopes to make a connection with players and fans alike, encouraging everyone to exchange jerseys as a sign of respect for diversity.
The campaign, aimed at players, officials, football fans and large TV audiences will be visible through a 30-second TV spot which will be broadcast in all European territories at half-time during matches, in the fan zones as well as on giant screens at the stadiums. Furthermore, the campaign is also reaching out to supporters online through a dedicated website created in nine languages.
"It is a great pleasure and a great honour to participate together with UEFA on such an important issue," said Seedorf. "I've always promoted these issues in a positive way, and tried to act with the right values during my career. I think that Respect is exactly the word that is needed – football can be a tool of help against problems."
"There are a lot of meanings for respect on and off the field of play," added Collina. "Respect and trust between players and referees – which makes the referee's job easier – or respect for the players from the fans. Respect is the only way to get a bright future for football."
Mr Platini took the opportunity to reiterate UEFA's zero tolerance policy towards racism in particular. He stressed that following the approval of the UEFA Executive Committee, referees have now been given the power to suspend or abandon matches in the event of racist incidents.
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