‘Respect Diversity’ conference inspires change in European football 16 September 2014

I attended the UEFA and FARE Network Diversity Football Conference in Rome on the 9th and 10th September 2014.

RomeRomeDuring this two-day event (10 and 11 September) representatives from within football, political and governmental organisations, experts and Fare member delegates representing NGOs and minority groups met in Rome to find solutions and plan action against discrimination in football. I was particularly inspired by the all women panel:‘You can’t have inclusion without representation’
 including UEFA Executive Committee member Karen Espelund, Cecile Kyenge MEP, former Italian Minister for Integration, Heather Rabbatts, English Football Association board member, and Emine Bozkurt, former Dutch MEP. The discussion focused on women and ethnic minorities in football leadership positions.

Cecile Kyenge talked passionately about her work as the former Italian Minister for integration and how she tackled discrimination over a three-year period interrogating and challenging discriminatory practices in Italian law including areas around sport. I was humbled an inspired by this contribution from Cecile, who herself experienced grotesque racism whilst in the role as Italian minister.

Heather Rabbatts shared efforts to change the face of the Football Association’s “exclusively white, middle-class, middle-aged and all-male board structure”. Heather spoke about the ‘Need to create interventions which when put together can create a tipping point for change’

Emine Bozkurt, talked about the need for true solidarity in the fight against discrimination in football, and that an attack on one person is an attack on all people. She expressed her need for more sharing of what’s working and the ‘Naming and faming of others’

Karen Espelund said “Diversity is the driving force for the development of all organisations,” Furthermore “Whether it is as a club, a league or an association, we really need different cultures to make progress and to make sure everyone has the chance to participate.”

There were many highlights of this conference from meeting legendary referee Pierlugi Collina to reconnecting with an old athletics friend, long jump Olympian Fiona May, now ambassador and advisor to the Italian government on diversity in football.  I was honored to watch the presentation of the Arthur Wharton statue from UEFA president Michel Platini to Shaun Campbell founder of the Arthur Wharton Foundation.  For more information about the conference http://www.farenet.org/news/respect-diversity-conference-inspires-change-european-football/

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