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Statement by Mr William Gaillard, Senior Advisor, UEFA, International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Palais des Nations, Geneva 21 March 2013

Football is the most popular sport in Europe and as such it is a mirror of society.  Football is neither better nor worse than the societies that host it. It reflects their values, their outlooks and their prejudices.

Football feeds the passions of millions of young people, it occupies their dreams and it often embodies their hopes.

With popularity comes also responsibility. UEFA believes that football has the opportunity to improve the society in which it thrives. We believe that it is our duty as football administrators to fight the evils that society produces. And because football is a prime example of society’s diversity, it stands also in a unique position to fight against all forms of discrimination.

Over the past decade and thanks to its partnership with FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) UEFA has led the fight against prejudice and hate in European football. Zero tolerance for racism and discrimination has been and is our policy. Under that policy, we have singled out and sanctioned behaviours that we deemed inappropriate in a football stadium and we are proud of it. Racism, anti-Semitism, gender discrimination, homophobia are just as unacceptable on a football pitch as they are in society at large.

The fight against discrimination is unfortunately not over. Society keeps on distilling its poison and we must remain alert to its multifaceted aspects.

We have a solemn duty to ensure that the human dignity of both players and fans is thoroughly protected in a football stadium.

We are confident that good behaviour is indeed habit forming. Diversity is rife on a pitch and in the stands. Diversity is a tremendously valuable asset for our societies and football must play a part in protecting it. Talent knows no colour; it knows no creed, gender or sexual preference. Let us always keep this essential fact in mind and let us make sure that those who might want to use our sports and our events as a conduit for spreading their hateful ideas are properly handled and punished.