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The campaign to eliminate racism, discrimination and intolerance from football has become a major priority for UEFA in recent years – and the European body makes full use of its high-profile platforms to send out a key and unequivocal message: No to Racism.
Since 2001, UEFA has forged a close partnership with the FARE network, which comprises groups and bodies working against intolerance and discrimination across the continent.
UEFA has given considerable financial support to the FARE organisation, and both bodies have cooperated in staging events, issuing publications, and pressing home a message of zero tolerance for any form of racism and discrimination, in favour of more respect for diversity.
Each year, matchday three in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League highlights the fight against racism and all forms of discrimination in football stadiums throughout Europe, as UEFA gives its full support to the continent's biggest anti-discrimination campaign - the FARE Action Weeks. This year will also feature matchdays two and three in the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifiers. Events take place during the Action Weeks in a great number of different countries across Europe. The activities include workshops, round-table discussions and mini-football tournaments involving fans, clubs, national associations, ethnic minority groups and youth organisations. With UEFA's support, grants from FARE have been offered to dozens of grassroots initiatives.
The No to Racism message aims to increase public awareness of intolerance and discrimination in football, as well as developing ideas and strategies on how to fight them. On the club competition matchday dedicated to the campaign, team captains wear No to Racism armbands, anti-racism messages are played over clubs' public address systems and a video containing player testimonials backing the campaign is shown in stadiums. A No to Racism pennant is also prominently on show, held by players. At the start of every match, 'No to Racism' banners are prominently displayed on the pitch.
The FARE Action Weeks also highlight the anti-racism resolution adopted at the XXXVII Ordinary UEFA Congress in London in May 2013, when UEFA's member associations pledged to step up their efforts to eliminate racism from football and impose stricter sanctions on racist behaviour. The resolution includes encouraging referees to stop, suspend or even abandon a game if racist incidents occur; the imposition of ten-match suspensions on any player or team official found guilty of racist conduct; and stadium closures if fans engage in racist behaviour.
UEFA has also revised its disciplinary regulations to include tougher penalties against racism. The measures aim to efficiently fight racist behaviour at football matches, in line with UEFA's zero-tolerance policy.
UEFA has been pleased to see how many high-profile figures have joined the European body, FARE and the European football community in assisting the campaign, showing just how committed football is to getting rid of the racists. Many former and current players have lent their backing to the campaign and have spoken out openly against racism.
The long-term campaign against racism and discrimination was the focal point of the 2014 Respect Diversity conference, organised jointly by UEFA, the FARE network and the players' union FIFPro, and hosted by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), which took place in Rome in September 2014. The conference sought to raise awareness of how to deal with all aspects of racism and discrimination in football with the participation of the game's key stakeholders.