Fifa Disbands Anti-Racism Task Force
Bill Shankly described the beautiful game as “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I’m very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that”. However, Fifa has been once again placed under scrutiny for disbanding its anti-racism task force, despite concerns over behaviour from matches from World Cup 2018 host Russia.
The force was first created in 2013 by the then Fifa President Sepp Blatter and headed by Jeffrey Webb, in an effort to help control and minimise racism. However, the governing body has declared that it has ‘completely fulfilled its temporary mission’ and ‘is hereby dissolved and no longer in operation’. There has been major concern on how minorities will be treated in Russia. In 2016, Moscow based SOVA Center for Information and Analysis stated that there had been ‘racially motivated attacks affecting at least six people in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, resulting in three deaths’. As punishment for the racist behaviour of fans the European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, ordered Russian club Rostov to close a stadium section for a Champions League game.
Task force member Osasu Obayiuwana stated that, “I wish I could say that I am shocked by the decision, but unfortunately I am not. The problem of racism in football remains a burning, very serious and topical one, which need continuous attention”.
In a letter to members explaining its termination, the task force highlights its successes, such as the introduction of an anti-discrimination monitoring system at matches, the launch of a ‘Good Practice Guide’, starting a team of footballing legends and a new diversity award.
Overall, the anti-racism task force has made progress on issues. However, the dismantling of the task force was communicated poorly and could be perceived as being weak, suggesting that the work of the task force is not entirely complete. Professional athletes who have been dreaming of representing their country on the highest stage will now be considering staying away for fear of their safety. Racism hasn’t been kicked out yet, and there’s no room for this ugliness in the most popular sport in the world.