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Discrimination in youth football: 32 reports a month in Belgium

Racism in football at exhibition Human zoo at Africa Museum, Tervuren
14:46 28/02/2022

A total of 843 reports of discrmination have been recorded as part of the Belgian Football Association’s (KBVB) action plan ‘Come Together’ to combat racism in the sport. The figure amounts to an average of 32 reports a month.

The action plan, launched in coordination with the ACFF (Association of French-speaking football clubs) and Voetbal Vlaanderen of Flanders, was meant to address the widespread racism in football revealed by a KU Leuven study focused on youth versions of the sport, De Morgen reports. 

That study found 37% of surveyed youth footballers between the ages of 10 and 20 came into contact with discrimination, which in almost a third of cases was related to skin colour. Other common complaints related to body weight or a lack of time on the field. 

A hotline for reporting incidents was created, which fielded 843 complaints in addition to formal referee reports of 204 incidents of discrimination. 

Peter Bossaert, CEO of the KBVB, said important steps have been taken “on all levels,” and pointed to the creation of a diversity board consisting of 13 representatives from various backgrounds. 

That board has already met five times to address racism, among other things. Another part of the action plan includes training referees and club members in how to spot discrimination, which 185 refs and 188 members have so far taken advantage of. 

“But there is still a lot of work to be done and the fight against discrimination and racism remains a priority for us,” said Bossaert. 

For minor offences, the follow-up focuses on dialogue ; repeat-offenders are referred to a disciplinary football court that has been set up.

Suspensions among the sanctions issued

That court has already issued 75 rulings, with sanctions ranging from fines and playing games behind closed doors for clubs, to suspensions for players, coaches or club representatives. Alternative sanctions include a visit to the Kazerne Dossin Holocaust Memorial and the Africa Museum in Tervuren, which tackles racism in football in its current exhibition Human zoo. The age of colonial exhibitions (pictured, main image).

“Our fight against discrimination and racism remains an absolute priority. The numerous and very regrettable incidents on the pitches of all divisions demonstrate the need for this,” said Bossaert. 

“Last year, important steps were taken in the framework of 'Come Together'. But there is still a lot of work to do and we will continue to focus on this fight. Several workshops on discrimination and racism have been organised over the past year.”

 

Written by Helen Lyons