Racism & Sports

Welcome back to Running4Rights week! Today we will be tackling racism within sports. Unfortunately racism and racial discrimination continues to be present in every day life including in sports.

The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)’s General Policy Recommendation No. 12 seeks to help Council of Europe Member States to combat racism as well as racial discrimination in professional and amateur sports, individual and team sports, as well as all activities related to sport in and outside sports grounds.

Sport can be a powerful tool for promoting social cohesion and
important values, such as fair play, mutual respect and tolerance. But sometimes it is also an area in which racism and racial discrimination can thrive.

ECRI General Policy Recommendation No. 12: Key Topics

Recommendations from the ECRI’s General Policy Recommendation No. 12 include raising awareness of racism and racial discrimination in sport through the following:

  • Organise and finance large scale anti-racism awareness raising campaigns in sport at all levels, involving all relevant actors.
  • Provide funding for social, educational and information activities for NGOs active in the field of combating racism and racial discrimination in sport.
  • Encourage the media to report on racist incidents taking place during sports events and to give publicity to sanctions incurred by racist offenders.

For example during the 2020 Olympics, the German Cycling Federation’s sporting director was sent home from the Tokyo Olympics after a microphone caught him shouting a racial slur during the previous day’s men’s time trial. Although he later apologised, Team Germany announced that he would be sent home as his comments contradicted the Olympic’s values of fair play, respect and tolerance.

The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play

International Olympic Committee

Within the Maltese context, in August 2021, the Malta Football Association Executive Board approved guidelines for match officials to refer to in the case of racist incidents inside the stadiums. Guidelines included:

“1. If any racist or discriminatory behaviour is observed, the match official in question will ask for a public announcement to be made requesting that such behavior by the supporters stops immediately (at those levels where matches are played in football grounds not equipped with a pa system, the match official will communicate directly with the respective club officials);

2. If such behavior persists after the game has restarted then the referee will suspend the match for a few minutes;

3. Finally as a final resort if racist behavior continues the referee can definitely decide to abandon the match and the case will be referred to the Control, Disciplinary and Ethics Committee. The MFA match-day officers will assist the referee in determining whether the racist behavior has ceased. Any decision to abandon the match will only be taken after all other possible measures have been implemented.”

 “Football should not be misused by anyone projecting any discriminatory message. The decision to empower referees to act against racism and to follow a procedure which could result in the suspension or even abandonment of a football match, is a strong sign that the Malta FA, its clubs and members will do whatever is in their control to prevent such behavior.”

Malta FA President Bjorn Vassallo 

It is important to remember that sports organizations and committees have a unique opportunity to use their position to educate, influence, and express positive views given their connection to fans – doing so in a way that bridges rather than exacerbates divides will be key to ensuring a safer more inclusive future for all.

Don’t forget that you can run/walk/cycle/swim at your own pace for Running4Rights, wherever, whenever you want between the 1st and 8th May 2022. Please do sign up here.

Check in over the next few days for more information on human rights, health and physical activity! In meantime check out the following related Running4Rights posts:






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