UEFA has demonstrated its support for the integration of minorities in sport and the fight to tackle discrimination through its presence at two keynote events in Vienna and Brussels.
The Sport and Integration conference in Vienna brought together non-governmental organisations, football associations, sports bodies, migrant organisations, fans, players' unions and European governing bodies including the European Commission and the Council of Europe.
Key issues discussed included the involvement of migrants and ethnic minorities in mainstream sporting institutions and ways of overcoming exclusion and discrimination in and through sport. Ongoing work to facilitate the inclusion of minorities in sport was also highlighted.
The conference was organised by the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network group FairPlay–VIDC in Austria, in collaboration with the six partners of the Sport Inclusion Network (SPIN) which is funded by the European Commission. The gathering was hosted by the Austrian ministry of sport at the House of Sport in Vienna.
The FARE network is this year celebrating ten years of its association with UEFA as a social responsibility partner.
In Brussels, tackling discrimination was on the agenda for a one-day FARE conference in the European Parliament. A range of speakers from the world of sport, civil society and the European Parliament joined Androulla Vassiliou, the European commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism, sport, media and youth. On the subjects of anti-discrimination and social inclusion, the conference heard about good practice and challenges in confronting institutional discrimination as well as about projects that are, for example, successfully using football to integrate minorities within the game.
A recent UEFA initiative was welcomed as an important innovation, as William Gaillard, adviser to the UEFA president who attended both events, explained: "The decision by our President, Michel Platini, just a few months ago whereby a woman, Karen Espelund – the chairwoman of UEFA's Women's Football Committee – became a member by invitation of the UEFA Executive Committee, was praised by everyone involved. The European institutions and the sports family feel this is a tremendous step forward for gender equality.
"At the moment we are living through a difficult financial and economic crisis. The groups most threatened are the ones who are least protected in our society – migrants, minorities and women, who are the first to be put in a precarious position," Gaillard said of another key message from the two events. "Everyone feels it is important that sport takes the lead in protecting these groups that are most weakened by the crisis."
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