In recent years, FIFA has been implementing a series of concrete measures aimed at fighting all forms of discrimination and promoting diversity in football. An important milestone for the work carried out to date will be the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, when, for the first time in the history of the competition, a dedicated anti-discrimination monitoring system will be in place for all matches, and referees will be able to stop, suspend or even abandon a match in case discriminatory behaviour does not cease.
“Last year at the FIFA Confederations Cup the atmosphere was very welcoming and friendly. We are positive that the World Cup will also be an amazing and diverse gathering of football lovers from all over the world,” says FIFA Secretary General, Fatma Samoura. “FIFA has a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination and this is something we take very seriously. Besides the educational measures that include a Good Practice Guide shared with all our member associations, we have systems in place to react to and sanction discriminatory acts as well as measures to ensure a discrimination-free environment at the FIFA World Cup.”
Following the successful implementation of the system during the Russia 2018 qualifiers and the FIFA Confederations Cup, and in collaboration with the Fare Network (an organisation with a long track record of combating discrimination in football), every FIFA World Cup match will feature three anti-discrimination match observers. The match observers will monitor the behaviour of fans from both teams, as well as any spectators who are not affiliated to a particular team playing in the match. Those observers understand the language and are trained on the regional specificities of the respective fan cultures and will also refer to Fare’s Global guide to discriminatory practices in football. They will be directly in touch with the stadium safety& security officers and facilitate the investigations of FIFA’s disciplinary bodies through the provision of evidence in case of discriminatory incidents.
While the observers will monitor the situation from the stands, the referees on the pitch will now also be able to intervene if needed. According to the so called three-step procedure, they will have the authority to first stop the match and request a public announcement asking for the discriminatory behaviour to cease, to suspend the match until the behaviour stops following another warning announcement, and finally, if the behaviour still persists, to decide to abandon the match.
“We have a strong monitoring system in place. Furthermore, everyone who is part of the match organisation, including staff, volunteers, teams, stewards and security personnel has been briefed and trained to ensure that, if discriminatory incidents occur, the right action is taken swiftly,” says FIFA Head of Sustainability & Diversity, Federico Addiechi. “We have also worked together with several participating teams on preventive and educational measures, including, of course, the hosts Russia. The appointment of Alexey Smertin by the Football Union of Russia as anti-discrimination officer last year and the introduction of an anti-discrimination monitoring system like our own in league matches in Russia are definitely key steps in the right direction.”
“The observer system has been very effective in identifying issues of discrimination during the World Cup 2018 qualification rounds, which is why there has been so much action taken to address homophobia in particular”, added Piara Powar, Executive Director of the Fare Network. “We hope equality and understanding will be the prevalent story of Russia 2018, however if issues do arise the observer system allows us to identify them early and have action taken during a match, and to refer evidence to the FIFA Disciplinary committee for post-action.”
The new edition of FIFA’s Good Practice Guide on Diversity and Anti-Discrimination was published this week on FIFA.com and sent to all 211 Member Associations to promote and support their implementation of anti-discrimination initiatives. On July 6-7, during the quarter-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, FIFA will also celebrate the Anti-Discrimination Days with a special pre-match protocol.