Call for coalition against racism in sport

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The Council of Europe’s human rights body last week called on governments across Europe to fight racism in sport ahead of last Saturday’s international day for the elimination of racial discrimination (21 March).

Concerned by the rise in racist behaviour in and around sports grounds in many European countries, the Council of Europe’s Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) last week issued recommendations on how governments should fight racism and racial discrimination in sports.

The recommendations addressed to all forty-seven Council of Europe member states cover both professional and amateur sports, as well as all activities related to sport in and outside sports grounds.

Above all, the text urges governments to ensure equal opportunities are respected in boosting sport for all, with special emphasis placed on promoting access to sport for children of different backgrounds. It particularly invites local authorities to boost the participation of minority groups in sports. The body also encourages sports clubs and federations to recognise that racism is a significant problem and to adopt measures to deal with it.

ECRI is calling for comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and legal means of publishing racist acts, suggesting that the police “adopt joint strategies with the security personnel of the organisers of sporting events to deal with racist incidents”. Police officers and stewards could identify and remove racist, anti-Semitic or discriminatory leaflets, symbols and banners, for example. ECRI also asks governments to remind athletes and coaches to report racist behaviour whenever it occurs, and to prosecute people who engage in racist behaviour in and around sporting events.

Finally, ECRI proposes building a coalition against racism in sport, bringing together all the relevant actors, including ministries of education and sport, national and international sports federations, sports clubs, athletes, sports coaching and referees’ unions, supporters’ organisations, local authorities, educational institutions, national anti-discrimination bodies, minority organisations, sports and anti-racism NGOs, sponsors and the media.

Recent years have seen an increasing number of footballers attacked or insulted by supporters of rival teams, with fans making racist comments or gestures. According to the European Commission, police cooperation instruments exist to fight hooliganism at European level, but responsibility lies mainly in the hands of member states. 

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