Interview with Ann de Mol – Stand up speak up against racism in football

Ann de Mol, a program advisor at the King Baudouin Foundation(KBF), is currently co-ordinating the Europe-wide 
Stand up Speak up
campaign against racism in football. Also co-ordinator of the Belgian national Stand up Speak up campaign, she explains the origins and aims of this Europe-wide initiative.

Are UEFA and FIFA doing enough against racism? 

Their campaigns against racism are very recent. But when UEFA says something it is a strong message for the national football associations and they will listen to it. Fighting against racism is intrinsic to sport but the national associations are not always aware of their strength to do something proactively. They need models, good practice examples showing how they can act. UEFA and FIFA can launch campaigns but also show how to do things in practice at local level. This is what we are trying to do as well – organise national and European level exchange of best practice. 

Why fight racism in football, why not fighting it in general in society, for example at work place? 

Because of the number of people involved in football. It is the number one sport in all countries and, therefore, highly mediatised. Media and journalists keep on writing about football and racism in football seems to sell more newspaper than racism at workplace. Football players can also be role models for many. 

Do you see any role for the EU in fighting racism in sports? 

The issue is very broad and goes beyond the EU’s competence. Racism is not only a sports issue, it is also about integration, equality of chances and more. Perhaps the European institutions could help organise meetings to exchange best practice. 

The European Parliament recently adopted a written declaration on racism in football. What do you think of some MEPs suggestions that a game should be stopped in the event of a racist abuse or that football authorities should introduce ‘sporting sanctions’ such as disqualifying football clubs with problems on racism form national and international competitions? 

It is an option and I think it is a very strong message. However, we work on the preventive side of the issue. What MEPs suggest is about real repression and I think you need this kind of possibility when the situation escalates. But the message of the Stand Up Speak Up project was and is more on prevention, how to prevent racist incidents and I think it is the job of UEFA to tackle and make rules and charter for these cases. Perhaps it is time to come together and see where we and UEFA can join forces and see whether we can work together next year on this issue. 

Where did the Stand Up Speak Up campaign idea come from? 

Originally, the initiative comes from0 Thierry Henry, who is a football player of the French national team and of the club of Arsenal in the UK. He said that “colored players all over Europe are still, even in 2005, victims of racist incidents”. After, a campaign against racism was launched, with a black and white wristband as its symbol. The wristbands were distributed in 5 million specimen in several European countries for sale in shops for 2 euros. 

The message of the campaign? 

The silent majority of non racist football fans. The message is “please, you, the silent majority, do something about this, let’s hear your voice and do something against racism”. So we’re asking the silent majority to be more proactive and to ask the football clubs to take their responsibilities and be proactive in the fight against racism together with, for example, anti-racism organisations or associations. 

What kind of projects are being funded by the Stand Up Speak Up campaign? 

An international youth football tournament with more than 1 000 young people under the flag of anti-racism. A training program, provided by a national centre for anti-racism, for stewards on anti-racism, as stewards witness racist incidents on or around the pitch but don’t know how to act or intervene. Then there are, for example, a lot of pedagogical products, DVDs for young people for fans and supporter groups, websites or even a comic strip for young people. It is a real mixture of methods and products. 

How did the King Baudouin Foundation end up managing the campaign? 

King Baudouin Foundation (KBF) has worked for years on sports and social cohesion and has a big network in Belgium and in Europe. We are a neutral, pluralistic and independent foundation work on sport as a tool for social cohesion and integration in society. 

Since the end of the 80’s already, the KBF, has projects using sport in general as tool for social cohesion and more for integration of migrant people. We also have knowledge not only on sports but on migration and integration and thus have the ‘intellectual competence’ on these issues. 

The KBF opened a bank account to collect the money received from the wristbands and co-ordinates the redistribution of the money to local, regional and national projects fighting against racism in football. 

How is the campaign being conducted? 

As the KBF has a network of similar foundations in Europe, it decided to ask these foundations to co-ordinate the national campaigns of Stand Up Speak Up and the selection of projects. KBF itself co-ordinates the Belgian national campaign and is in charge of the overall coordination at European level. 

As racism is different in different countries, we asked the Dutch WJH Mulier Institute, to make an inventory of the different problems and of existing projects and organisations working on the field of sports and racism before we launched the call for proposals for the Stand Up Speak Up campaign. WJH Mulier Institute is a centre for research on sports in society and has considerable experience on these issues. And as we then worked with foundations with little experience in racism, the final report 
Football and Racism – an inventory of the problems and solutions in eight West European countries
was important material for them. 

National campaigns are taking place in Belgium and Luxembourg (combined), France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK. In all these countries a call for projects was launched at the end of October, beginning of November 2005. The selection of projects took place in February-March 2006 by independent jury with experts on sports, racism, football and other issues. 

Each country had 300 000 euro to divide between projects and the national partners decided on their priorities. 179 projects in total are being funded. Average funding in Belgium is somewhere between little local projects receiving 1000 euro and bigger national level programs 16 000 euro. This varies from country to another. France and Germany, for example, decided to choose fewer projects with bigger budgets receiving up to 25 000 euro. 

The UK is a special case. It received 1.5 million pounds [around 2.2 million euro] because in the UK football is such a big issue and there is a lot of national associations. The campaign also got a lot of publicity in the UK as Thierry Henry is an Arsenal player. 

How will you follow up on the project? 

We have asked the WJH Mulier Institute to evaluate the projects and their impact. According to the results the institute will advise us on how to do the second phase, follow-up, of the Stand Up Speak Up campaign.

To read the related news article, click here.

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