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FIFA adopts new strategy to fight racism

BY SANJAY MYERS Observer staff reporter myerss@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, July 22, 2014    

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WORLD football's governing body FIFA, in an effort to effectively combat racism and discrimination in the sport, is adopting a new strategy that comprises a combination of tougher sanctions, education, and improved awareness.

The new approach will be rolled out at the CONCACAF Champions League club competition, which begins August 5, FIFA vice-president and the chairman of the body's Task Force Against Racism and Discrimination Jeffrey Webb said yesterday.

Speaking at the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange, Webb, who is also the CONCACAF president, argued that solely implementing fines for breaches has not provided the desired effect.

"We all recognise that economic fines don't really have the impact we would like them to have," Webb told reporters and editors.

In the past there have been numerous complaints from Jamaican national teams, in particular, highlighting physical and verbal abuse when they play countries in Central America.

Webb, who has been at the helm of the Confederation covering the North American, Central American and Caribbean bloc of countries since 2012, said the new guidelines will address such instances.

"One of the first things CONCACAF adopted is a match integrity protocol, where we have trained anti-discrimination officers. We actually highlight what we deem as high-risk games. Those games are flagged and anti-discrimination officers are named for those games," he said.

"We have the match protocol highlighting what takes place when an incident is identified from a public announcer in the stadium and what the referee must do. The referee must stop the game, ask the public announcer to speak. The game may continue, and if it [the discrimination] continues for a third time, the match is abandoned," he said.

The FIFA vice-president, who was accompanied at yesterday's Exchange by Jamaica Football Federation President Captain Horace Burrell, explained that education is a key element in combating discrimination and racism at both the regional and global levels.

"For FIFA, the bigger challenge is from a cultural standpoint. We have passed regulations within the statutes for FIFA highlighting the punishment," Webb said.

"Historically, there have always been fines, but what we have proposed is the deduction of points, we have proposed removing someone from the competition, and suspension from the competition the following year. So the sanction goes further than ever before," he added.

"But really, the big shift from racism... comes down to education. The only way we are going to eliminate the ignorance that exists is really through educating individual people," Webb said.

He said the biggest incidence of racism occur mainly in eastern Europe, and added that in some of those cases discrimination has been levelled by football followers against players within their own teams.

Throughout the recent World Cup in Brazil, FIFA pledged a zero-tolerance approach to racial discrimination, widely advertising 'Say No To Racism' banners.

At the tournament, there were reports of spectators chanting offensive slurs, wearing make-up to blacken their skin, and carrying banners of symbols linked to extremist political movements.

Webb's task force cited at least one breach that was passed to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee, but no action was taken.

Webb raised eyebrows across the globe when he chided the disciplinary body's failure to punish the alleged discriminatory act.

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