With “no clear indication” that recent measures implemented by governing bodies and social media companies have done anything to tackle racism in football, worldwide players’ union FIFPro wants to help set up an independent research center to gather data on incidents of abuse.
The research center is part of FIFPro’s new plan to “protect, support and champion” players.
With the game relying on the likes of the Fare Network in Europe and the UK’s Kick it Out organization to track incidents of racist abuse, FIFPro says the lack of a reliable global database makes effectively tackling racism in football an even greater task.
“This carries two challenges: first, it almost inevitably means that the extent of such discrimination is underestimated, especially when it comes to players’ experience of discrimination from colleagues and teammates,” a FIFPro report released on Tuesday reads.
“Such incidents, likely to happen away from the public eye, go unreported and unchecked.
“Second, if we do not understand the scale of the current problem, it is difficult to track and monitor change. Without this, we cannot confidently say whether existing initiatives are effective. We cannot learn what works, and it is much harder to hold those responsible to account.”
As well as the union making a financial commitment for the idea of an independent research center, FIFPro would provide legal representation to players that decide to protest, connect players with football’s governing bodies to allow them an input into anti-racism measures and put together a task force to address UEFA’s three-step protocol.
Introduced in 2019, the three-step implementation of the protocol has been criticized with referees seemingly unwilling to carry it out in full.
It allows officials to twice halt the game temporarily if there are discriminatory chants and issue a warning over the stadium’s speaker system, before being able to abandon the match entirely if it continues for a third time.
So far, no matches have been abandoned despite several reaching the first or second step.
FIFPro says it would also like to provide regular opportunities for players to come together and relay their experiences of racist abuse, as well as provide them with support and help educate football organizations in dealing with discrimination.
‘A hotbed of inequality’
As part of the report, a number of current and former professional footballers – Vincent Kompany, Anita Asante, Gaby Garton and Giorgio Chiellini wrote op-eds detailing their experiences of discrimination in the sport and how they believe it should be tackled.
Former Manchester City and Belgium defender Vincent Kompany has regularly spoken out in calling for change within football authorities and their boardrooms.
Kompany, who was born in Belgium after his father Pierre arrived as refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1975, says the “diversity that so benefited the teams I played in is not reflected in football’s power structures.”
“Football has given me so much,” Kompany writes. “I’ve seen the world, experienced new things and met some incredible people. I’ve been lucky enough to play alongside footballers from more than 50 different countries and six continents.
“This, and growing up in a multicultural household and neighborhood, has taught me to value the experience and viewpoints of others. It has shown me how powerful it is to learn and share ideas with people from a range of backgrounds in an inclusive and collaborative environment. And it has demonstrated to me that greater diversity leads to better and fairer decision-making.
“Sadly, this thinking has not yet found its way into football … Take the boardrooms of football clubs. Even a cursory glance at their members’ profiles shows that they are still a hotbed of inequality. Footballing boards and management rooms remain profoundly unrepresentative of the diversity of players, with a notable absence of people of color and women.”