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Prince Ali of Jordan: It’s ‘Shameful’ of FIFA to Disband Anti-Racism Task Force

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FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, has disbanded its anti-racism task force, it announced in a letter to task force members over the weekend.

In a news conference Monday, FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura explained the decision to end the force, which was established in 2013: “The task force had a very specific mandate which it fulfilled and its recommendations have been turned into a strong programme.” The task force’s responsibilities included creating an anti-discrimination monitoring system at matches, giving out a diversity award and writing a “good practice guide.”

Yet some are arguing that racism remains a pressing problem, especially as Russia prepares to host the World Cup in 2018. According to the Guardian, the Moscow-based SOVA Center and the Uefa-affiliated FARE Network have reported an increase in racist incidents–92 by Russian fans in and around stadiums in the 2014-15 season, compared to 83 total incidents in the prior two seasons.

Prince Ali Bin Hussein of Jordan, president of the Jordan Football Association, issued the following statement criticizing the decision on Monday:

Today’s announcement that FIFA is disbanding its Anti-Racism Task Force, considering its work done, is incredibly worrying. 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, NGO’s and stake holders to tackle racism and discrimination in all its forms.

The reality as with many programs within FIFA is that the task force was never given real support since its conception and its role was more about FIFAs image than actually tackling the issues. In fact the present task force committee has never even met! Now 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.

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