FIFA announced the disbandment of its anti-racism task force on Friday, declaring the work of the task force complete despite ongoing reports of discriminatory behavior in Russia, the hosts of the 2018 World Cup.
The Associated Press reports that FIFA wrote to all members of the task force to say that it has “completely fulfilled its temporary mission” and “is hereby dissolved and no longer in operation.”
The anti-racism task force was established in 2013 by the then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter. The body was charged with combating racism in football, removing all discrimination with regard to race, ethnicity, language, culture, religion, or sexual orientation. At its inauguration, the anti-racism task force was headed by Jeffrey Webb, then-FIFA vice president.
More about this
Webb was arrested in 2015, when law enforcement operatives launched an international investigation in to allegations of pervasive corruption in the operations of FIFA. Webb was found guilty of financial mismanagement and replaced by Constant Omari, a member of FIFA’s ruling council.
A letter to members of the anti-racism task force from Gerd Dembowski, FIFA Diversity and Anti-Discrimination manager, read, in part:
The FIFA Task Force Against Racism and Discrimination was set up with your help on a temporary basis to develop recommendations for FIFA, we are therefore delighted to inform you that all of the task force’s recommendations have been implemented and all resulting projects are ongoing.
Reacting to the FIFA announcement, Osasu Obayiuwana, a task force member, said, “The problem of racism in football remains a burning, very serious and topical one, which needs 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 different position.”
Obayiuwana added that the anti-racism task force never met under the leadership of Omari, “We never had a single meeting under his chairmanship. I wrote him, more than once, asking for when a meeting would be held. But I never received a reply from him.”
Ultimately, Obayiuwana condemned the decision to end the work of the task force but said he wasn’t surprised by FIFA’s decision, “I wish I could say that I am shocked by the decision, but unfortunately I am not.”
FIFA’s decision to disband the task force comes amid new research from the Moscow-based SOVA Center and the UEFA-affiliated FARE Network that there has been a surge in the number of racist incidents involving Russian fans, with most cases going unpunished.
Researchers logged 92 incidents of discriminatory incidents by Russian fans in and around stadiums in the 2014-15 season, against a total of 83 for the previous two seasons put together.