AMMAN/LONDON: FIFA’s decision to disband its anti-discrimination task force has been criticised by Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan and by the UK pressure group Kick It Out writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The formal decision to scrap the panel was taken by FIFA only last Thursday but the committee had been lacking in focus and leadership for more than a year, ever since the arrest of its initial president, Cayman Islands banker Jeffrey Webb, on corruption charges arising out of the United States’ FIFAGate investigation.
Fatma Samoura, FIFA’s secretary-general, told the Soccerex Global Convention in Manchester, that the task force had served its initial purpose and its work would continue via more formal anti-discrimination programmes.
However Prince Ali, an unsuccessful FIFA presidential campaigner in 2015 and this as well as head of the Jordanian FA, described the decision as “incredibly worrying.”
Prince Ali, also president of rhe Asian Football Development Project, said: “The fight against racism is far from over and the notion that the current FIFA leadership believes that the ‘task force’s recommendations have been implemented’ is shameful.
“Never has the need to combat racism and racial discrimination been more evident than it is in the world we live in today.
“Football is the most popular sport in the world and one of the only practical means to help the people of our world heal their differences, but we cannot begin without first addressing in real terms the racial differences and discrimination that are very real, and apparent, faced by our football associations, players and fans.
“It is not something that any governing body with any semblance of responsibility can down play or deny.
“I have long argued that tackling racism and discrimination should be a permanent part of the institution and that the ad hoc committee should evolve into a permanent one with real support and resources.
“Though slogans and awards are laudable, the committee and its work should have the ability to go much further into the very fabric of society and to work in conjunction with the football associations, governments, NGOs and stake holders to tackle racism and discrimination in all its forms.”
Prince Ali, a former FIFA vice-president, said that the task force “was never given real support since its conception and its role was more about FIFA’s image than actually tackling the issues.
“The idea that FIFA believes that it’s the right time to disband its anti-racism task force is ridiculous. There is still so much work to do, and FIFA must show leadership, take responsibility for reform and be accountable if change isn’t put into practice.
“Transparency, trust, credibility and integrity are the values that should run through everything FIFA does – Not tackling the plague of racism and discrimination properly is an absolute betrayal of those values.”
Kick It Out, adding another voice of concern, described itself as “perplexed” by the decision.
A statement said: “This comes at a time when there is clear evidence that discrimination, prejudice and hate are on the rise in developed societies, particularly in Europe but also in different forms across the world. Football should seek to lead the way in combating such intrusions.
“Organisations 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.
“This is also ahead of FIFA hosting the 2018 World Cup in Russia, a country which is notorious for racism and abusive activities towards minorities.”