Fifa defends ‘perplexing’ scrapping of anti-racism taskforce

Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura

Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura was speaking at the Soccerex conference in Manchester

Fifa has defended its decision to scrap an anti-racism taskforce, with critics branding the move “shameful”.

The Fifa Taskforce Against Racism and Discrimination was set up in 2013 to develop strategies to tackle the issue.

Fifa general secretary Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura said: “It had a specific mandate, which it has fully fulfilled.”

But former Fifa vice-president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein said: “For it to be disbanded with Fifa considering its work done is extremely worrying.”

Prince Ali, the president of the Jordan Football Association and a former Fifa presidential candidate, added: “The notion that the current Fifa leadership believe that the task force’s recommendations have been implemented is shameful.”

Anti-discrimination group Kick it Out was “perplexed” by Fifa’s decision.

In a statement, it said: “This comes at a time when there is clear evidence that discrimination, prejudice and hate are on the rise in developed societies.

“Organisations that are actively campaigning against racism and discrimination will be deeply disheartened to hear news of the disbandment, as they look to Fifa for leadership in a game which is so popular across the world.”

Kick it Out chairman Lord Ouseley added: “The reality is that racism is alive and well right across Europe and in other parts of the world.”

Hope not Hate chief executive Nick Lowles told the BBC that the decision to wind up the taskforce sent out “a really bad signal”.

Both Lord Ouseley and Lowles also questioned what Fifa planned to do to tackle racism in the future, while former taskforce member Osasu Obayiuwana said there “remained a lot of very serious work for the taskforce to have done”.

Speaking at the Soccerex global football conference in Manchester on Monday, Samoura claimed the taskforce’s recommendations had been turned into a “strong programme” to tackle racism.

She added: “My presence here is a demonstration that Fifa has a zero tolerance policy against discrimination, not only racism but any kind of discrimination, including violation of human rights.”

Samoura will present Fifa’s first Diversity Award later on Monday.

What are the taskforce’s recommendations?

The anti-racism taskforce was established by former Fifa president Sepp Blatter and headed by Jeffrey Webb until he was arrested in 2015 as part of an investigation into corruption.

Its recommendations included introducing extra observers at games and tough penalties for clubs whose players, officials or fans are guilty of racism.

Earlier this month, European football’s governing body Uefa ordered Russian club FC Rostov to close a section of their stadium for a Champions League game against PSV Eindhoven as punishment for racist behaviour of their fans.

Uefa said fans in Rostov-on-Don, one of the host cities for the 2018 Fifa World Cup, were guilty of unspecified offences during their play-off victory against Dutch side Ajax on 24 August.

Analysis – BBC Sports news correspondent Richard Conway

Fifa’s anti-discrimination taskforce was set-up on a temporary basis and a number of its recommendations have been put into action.

In May 2015 Fifa introduced an Anti-Discrimination Monitoring System which will assess 850 high-risk matches for potential discriminatory incidents during the 2018 World Cup qualifiers and friendlies.

So some progress has clearly been made.

Nevertheless, the dismantling of the taskforce has been both poorly handled and communicated. The way the story emerged, first reported by the Associated Press, put Fifa on the back foot and allowed it to be perceived as being weak on the issue. Prince Ali of Jordan, a former senior Fifa official and one-time challenger to be its president, has gone as far as to say the decision is “worrying” and “shameful”.

Fifa insists it maintains a “zero tolerance” attitude to discrimination within the game. However it must now prove that is the case through both actions and words.

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