Historically, football has always been a formidable antidote against every kind of social discrimination, with an unparalleled record for bridging cultures and people from all over the world. However, nowadays, in a European context where racially-motivated discrimination, xenophobia, and more generally intolerance are on the rise (and even more so online), football-related events have often become a stage for episodes of physical, verbal and psychological aggression against players or supporters that represent social minorities (religious, ethnic, gender). This happens at all levels, from professional to amateur, from young to old, from separate to mixed-gender teams. At the global level, 54% of football fans have at least once witnessed an episode of racial discrimination in a stadium. At the local level, no community can call themselves free from episodes of racism.
Racism can assume a particularly violent and derogatory form online. A recent study in Italy has shown how out of four Facebook posts published by the five main national sports publishers, three attract comments that contain some form of hate speech, being racial-based discrimination one of them. Yet, to date, no safety net or prevention mechanism have been put in place.
More broadly, within the sports communication sector, racism and social discrimination on social media are rarely reported and when they are, often betray an acute lack of understanding of the issue. For instance, the racist comments that swarmed social media after the 2018 football World Cup, which, as demonstrated by a Council of Europe’s commission, were partly triggered by some short-sighted articles published on important newspapers
Discrimination Off Limits is a project founded by European Union. The main aim of the project is to help those involved in football communication to acquire tools and knowledge to better fight racism and other types of discriminations. We strongly believe that having a more diverse group of professionals in football communications, supported by the project’s outputs to address episodes of intolerance would positively impact the way discriminations are narrated.
The project was born from the union of different initiatives and actions carried out by UrbanAct (through Offside) and by SCI HELLAS, FARE NETWORK STICHTING and CNR-IsMed who for years have been developing initiatives where football is used as a tool for social change.
UrbanAct is the association that organises the Italian edition of Offside Football Film Festival: the first and only international film festival about football, with more than 40 editions in the world. UrbanAct has organised events and launched cultural campaigns linked to sport stories that a strong social and cultural meaning, often in collaboration with Italian public institutions. Each year, UrbanAct realises several events and initiaitves to foster multicultural integration, culture and positive social messages. Thanks to the competences and skills of its staff, UrbanAct presents itself as the lead agency of the project, managing all activities, being in charge of financial and logistic aspects of the project, of development of the website as well as the organisation of events and communication campaigns.
The National Research Council (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche – CNR) is the largest research council in Italy, the only one under the Research Ministry performing multidisciplinary activities. Cnr-IsMed is a department of CNR that implements a research project titled “Umanità nel Pallone”, which studies the intersection between football and social sciences, analysing in detail the issue of racism in the sport. This project, also called Academic Football Lab, has become a permanent study and experimentation laboratory to investigate the relationship between football and social sciences. Within the consortium, CNR will lead the Internal Committee, analysing the material collected and proposed, offering guidance in the collection of documents and public events, guaranteeing scientific accuracy.
KINISI ETHELONTON SERVICE CIVIL INTERNATIONAL ELLAS (SCI HELLAS) It is the Greek branch of Service Civil International (SCI), an international voluntary movement that aims to promote Peace, Solidarity and Intercultural Understanding through organising international voluntary projects (even using sport), campaigns and seminars. Within the project, SCI HELLAS will contribute to the consortium by proposing original football stories linked to the civil society in southern Europe and unknown to traditional media and by organising events.
FARE NETWORK STICHTING is a network set up to counter discrimination in European football. The network has received backing from the European governing body UEFA, FIFA and the European Commission for its aims. It’s the largest initiative against discrimination in football worldwide (more than 1500 activities, in 45+ countries). FARE Network will help the project by coordinating the whole research and collection phase of the “stories” and documents for sport communicators.