FIFA is heading to the 2018 World Cup in Russia with a new system that promises to monitor and condemn discriminatory practices in and around the game of billions. The system is anchored by a monitoring system and a three-step procedure to tackle discrimination during a match.
This is after FIFA piloted the system during the World Cup qualifiers and in last year’s Confederations Cup.
The three-step procedure is designed to work as follows when referees encounter discriminatory practices during a match:
Referees will have the authority to pause the match and request a public announcement to insist that the discriminatory behaviour cease.
If the discriminatory behaviour persists the referees can sanction another warning announcement for the behaviour to stop. They can now suspend the match until the behaviour stops.
Finally, if the behaviour still persists, the referees can decide to abandon the match.
This three step procedure is complemented by a monitoring system made of anti-discrimination observers deployed by FIFA.
The match observers are coordinated and trained by the Fare network, an organisation which has been working with FIFA in the fight against discrimination in football.
The match observers are deployed to monitor the behaviour of fans. They gather evidence of discrimination and forward is to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee for review and potential action. The match observers also stand to support operational staff in resolving incidents of discrimination before and during the matches by being directly in touch with security personnel.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has declared the initiatives critical toos to root out discrimination. “Both initiatives are extra tools for the referees and match officials to prevent discriminatory attitudes and ensure that the atmosphere in the stadium is one of fair play and respect.”
ProBonoMatters is setting out to monitor and report on these initiatives so as to ensure that they deliver meaningful results.
ProBonoMatters embarks on this mission after noting FIFA’s apparent tendency to paper over the cracks. And we are particularly concerned because Russia and the broader eastern European region comes with a bad record in terms of occurrence of discriminatory incidences in and around football games. We believe that if this FIFA system was robust enough, we should have already seen the suspension of some matches.