Members of the European Parliament have added their voice to the drive to tackle racism in football.
MEPs have launched a declaration in Brussels commending the work of the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network and calling for action by national associations, leagues and clubs across the continent. The declaration will achieve the status of a motion if a majority of the 732 MEPs give their backing.
The declaration strongly condemns all forms of racism on and off the field, calls on those with a high profile in football - above all players and coaches - to speak up against the problem, and urges action programmes by FAs, leagues, clubs, players unions and supporters groups.
UEFA and other competition organisers are being called upon to ensure that referees have the option of stopping or abandoning matches because of serious racist abuse, and to impose sanctions on those who commit racist offences.
"It is a sad reflection on our world that racism continues to blight the beautiful game," the MEPs say. "Football is not the cause of racism, but it is in our stadiums and on our pitches that some of the most visible and violent abuse takes place.
Means to reach millions
"We should see this as an opportunity. The massive popularity of football presents us with the means to reach millions of people and, we must hope, to promote tolerance and understanding. By winning hearts and minds on the terraces and on the pitch, we make a crucial breakthrough in the bigger battle to free society of racism.
"No one government or organisation can fight racism alone. It demands the support of every part of society, of every individual. It is a problem that requires close co-operation between the public and private spheres. In the world of football, a similar picture exists. Each member of the family – the associations, leagues, clubs, players, referees and supporters – has its role to play. That is why our declaration calls for a joint effort from everyone that cares about football.
Football's special responsibility
"We take great encouragement from the work of UEFA, FARE and the other organisations that are committed to fighting racism in football. They have understood that football has a special responsibility – and again, an opportunity - to tackle the problem.
Joining the fight
"But now is not the time to relax," the MEPs conclude. "We can and must do more. The European Parliament should call on all those with a stake in football to join the fight against racism, and to do what they can in their community."
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