Manchester - FIFA has disbanded its anti-racism task force,
declaring the work complete despite on-going concerns about discriminatory
behaviour at matches in 2018 World Cup host Russia.
FIFA wrote to members of the task force to say that it has
"completely fulfilled its temporary mission" and "is hereby
dissolved and no longer in operation."
"I wish I could say that I am shocked by the decision,
but unfortunately I am not," task force member Osasu Obayiuwana told The
Associated Press on Sunday. "The problem of racism in football remains a
burning, very serious and topical one, which need continuous attention.
"I personally think there remained a lot of very
serious work for the task force to have done - the 2018 World Cup in Russia
being one such matter. But it is evident the FIFA administration takes a
The task force was established in 2013 by then-FIFA
president Sepp Blatter and headed by Jeffrey Webb, a vice president of world
soccer's governing body until he was arrested in 2015 as part of the American
investigation into soccer corruption.
Webb, who pleaded guilty to racketeering charges, was
replaced exactly a year ago as task force chairperson by Congolese federation
president Constant Omari, who also sits on FIFA's ruling council.
"We never had a single meeting under his
chairmanship," Obayiuwana said. "I wrote him, more than once, asking
for when a meeting would be held. But I never received a reply from him."
Obayiuwana, a journalist, broadcaster and qualified lawyer,
received the letter from FIFA on Friday announcing the end of the task force
and shared its contents.
"The FIFA Task Force Against Racism and Discrimination
was set up with your help on a temporary basis to develop recommendations for
FIFA," wrote Gerd Dembowski, FIFA's diversity and anti-discrimination
"We are therefore delighted to inform you that all of
the task force's recommendations have been implemented and all resulting
projects are on-going."
FIFA told task force members that it "may solicit further
advice ... if required."
Former FIFA presidential candidate Tokyo Sexwale used his
speech before the election that saw Gianni Infantino elected in February to
call for the anti-racism task force to become a permanent committee.
"Racism is going to be with us for a long, long
time," Sexwale, a former anti-apartheid activist, told the FIFA Congress.
"It can't just be a committee that comes ad hoc."
But in a letter to members of the task force explaining its
termination, FIFA highlighted successes including the introduction of an
anti-discrimination monitoring system at matches, the launch of a "Good
Practice Guide ," starting a team of footballing legends and a new
diversity award. Fatma Samoura, FIFA's first female and first African secretary
general, will present the award on Monday at the SoccerEx convention in
FIFA also told task force members that its own initiatives
"actually exceed the working group's recommendations" - trumpeting
its "Say No to Racism" campaign, women's leadership conferences and
programs in Russia. There are less than nine months until Russia stages the
Confederations Cup, the warm-up event for the 2018 World Cup.
Earlier this month, European soccer's governing body, UEFA,
ordered Russian club Rostov to close a stadium section for a Champions League
game as punishment for the racist behaviour of fans.
The most recent research from the Moscow-based SOVA Centre
and the UEFA-affiliated FARE Network reported a surge in the number of racist
displays by Russian soccer fans, with most cases going unpunished. Researchers
logged 92 incidents of discriminatory displays and chants by Russian fans in
and around stadiums in the 2014-15 season, against a total of 83 for the
previous two seasons combined.