In the latest edition of UEFA•direct, UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino speaks of the body's commitment and proactive stance in the fight to eliminate racism from football.
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Although it has been fighting racism for many years, it recently became apparent that football needed to redouble its efforts to eradicate this problem from our sport. European football had already been taking the lead by imposing strong disciplinary measures for racist behaviour. Nevertheless, UEFA realises and accepts that firm and consistent action needs to be taken across the board to kick racism out of football. So, this was the genesis of the resolution adopted by the UEFA Congress in May 2013 entitled European Football United Against Racism.
This resolution, warmly supported by the UEFA Executive Committee, was unanimously approved by the UEFA Congress. It sets out an 11-point plan, which all national associations subscribe to, designed to tackle racism head on. Thus, following the lead of UEFA, every national association in Europe has committed to conducting the fight against racism in a strong and unified fashion. And this is precisely the strength of European football – its unity on such crucial matters. Following the adoption of this resolution, we have already seen strong measures being taken by national associations to deter racist behaviour following incidents in a domestic setting.
We were proud (but not surprised) that stars of European football, both past and present, as well as leading coaches and referees, were all prepared to lend their support to and throw their weight behind this campaign. The fact is that football, which by its very nature brings together people from so many diverse cultural and racial backgrounds, is also a natural leader in the fight against racism. And so we were very pleased to see just how ready all these leading figures in European football were to play an active part in this campaign. Their support, as well as the support of every club in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League, has been invaluable in getting our message across. That message is: European football says "No to Racism".
We are now seeing this campaign in action at each club competition match this season. And it has been further highlighted in the FARE action weeks which coincided with matchday three in October. On that occasion, team captains at 40 matches wore No to Racism armbands, anti-racism messages were played over the public address systems, and video testimonials backing the campaign were shown in every stadium and on television, including contributions from Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Johan Cruyff. No to Racism pennants were passed across the starting lineups at every venue. And there will be more to come in the knockout stages of our club competitions, both on and off the field of play.
Equally important has been UEFA's own strengthened disciplinary approach. Our disciplinary regulations force supporters and clubs to take their responsibilities very seriously in this area. And recently we have seen several partial stadium closures imposed as a penalty for racist behaviour. There will be no let-up by UEFA here, and further sanctions will be imposed if these problems persist. This is what our regulations say and this is how we can expect them to be applied. We believe the message is now being received loud and clear.
As they say, action speaks louder than words. And UEFA has acted. We will remain vigilant, as racism is a big problem in society that will not be cured overnight. Nevertheless, looking towards 2014, we can say that European football stands both united and proud, because we are at least playing our part and taking real, concrete steps to get rid of racism.