Fifa says anti-racism taskforce had 'completed work'

Fifa has defended its decision to scrap an anti-racism taskforce after critics branded the move “a bad signal” and “disheartening”.

The Fifa Taskforce Against Racism and Discrimination was set up in 2013 to develop recommendations to tackle it.

Fifa General Secretary Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura said: “The taskforce had a specific mandate, which it has fully fulfilled.”

But 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.”

Other critics also questioned the dismantling of the group, saying racism is ongoing.

Nick Lowles of the Hope not Hate organisation told the BBC: “It sends out a really bad signal. We need a much fuller statement from Fifa to say that, if phase one is completed as they are claiming – and we would argue that it isn’t – then what is phase two?

Former taskforce member Osau Obayiuwana told the Associated Press: “I wish I could say I am shocked by the decision, but unfortunately I am not.

“I personally think there remained a lot of very serious work for the taskforce to have done – the 2018 World Cup in Russia being one such matter. But it is evident the Fifa administration takes a different position.”

Speaking at the Soccerex global football conference, Samoura explained that the group’s recommendations had now been turned into a “strong programme” to tackle racism.

Responding to criticism of the decision, the general secretary of football’s world governing body 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 at the convention in Manchester on Monday.

The anti-racism taskforce was established by then 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 their Champions League game against PSV Eindhoven as punishment for the racist behaviour of their fans.

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

Former Fifa presidential candidate Tokyo Sexwale had used his speech before Gianni Infantino was elected as Blatter’s replacement in February to call for the group to become a permanent committee.

“Racism is going to be with us for a long, long time,” Sexwale, a former anti-apartheid activist, said at the time. “It can’t just be a committee that comes ad hoc.”

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