Racism Breaks the Game

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					A Case for Hope: Fighting racism through sports in Romania
Presented by Valeriu Nicolae-Senior Advocacy Officer, Open Society Institute, ex-Executive Director of European Roma Grassroots Organisation Summary I argue here that when it comes to racism, inclusion, and promoting social dialogue football’s governing bodies are far ahead of our societies. Presidents of UEFA and FIFA (main governing bodies of football) were and are very vocal against racism. Most famous footballers have been involved in sometimes very successful campaigns against racism. Governments and most visible politicians should learn from football if to see the worrisome levels of intolerance and racist attitudes changing to the better in the society. Campaigning in partnership with the Romanian Football Federation (RFF) in Romania provides a case study of possible ways forward. Here, we managed to produce a snowball effect and had a very strong impact, although these messages need to be reinforced continually. For the future developing a coalition of famous footballers against racism which to encourage politicians in Europe to speak up against racism could be much more effective than anything tried before and could provide a good starting point for others in sports and elsewhere to do the same. The case study I present here looks at how we started- what the situation was like and what we did. It presents a number of photos and video materials proving the extent of racism on the Romanian stadiums up to 2006 as well as documenting our campaigns. It also looks at the way we extended our campaign internationally and the way we linked it with other campaigns promoting messages against discrimination as well as campaigns promoting social dialogue.

1. Collecting the Evidence From 2003 to end of 2006 Romanian officials and media claimed in their overwhelming majority there was no racism in Romania. The following photographs prove otherwise – see slide 3 to 4. They never made the press. Inspired by UEFA Director of Communications William Gaillard during a conference on racism in Bratislava on 7 April 2005, I started collecting material documenting racism on stadiums in Romania.


On 13 April 2005, during a game between Steaua Bucharest and Rapid Bucharest, Steaua’s supporters used anti-Gypsy chants: ―We have always hated gypsies, we have always urinated on you!‖ and ―stinky gypsies.‖ Slide 5 -Video clip: Racist chants at an April 2005 game in Romania. (available upon request – downloaded from the website of Rapid Bucuresti in 2006 – slide 6 in the presentation) After the game,Gabi Safta, the announcer for Steaua Bucharest, verbally abused Razvan Lucescu, the coach of Rapid, calling him a ―stinky Gypsy.‖During the intermission on the stadium the organisers played a racist song called ―Gypsies and the UFO’s‖. Commenting after the match, the Romanian Football League’s observer, Vasile Alexandru, claimed that ―the game was played in normal conditions.‖ Furthermore, ―so what?‖ if songs like ―Gypsies and the UFOs‖ were played during intermission—―those are songs sung by people a little bit darker.‖ Slide -5 Banner on the stadium against Razvan Luceascu which read “Razvan son of a Gypsy”

2. Gaining UEFA Support In 2005 I presented evidence of racism in Romanian stadiums, focused mainly on antiGypsyism. Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) staff in Geneva and Brussels was very receptive. Following a number of racist incidents in the first rounds of the UEFA’s Competitions for football clubs (including incidents in Romania during the game Steaua –Shelbourne),on 6 September 2005, UEFA president Lennart Johannson responded to racism at games by telling a British newspaper: ―We are concerned about racism, particularly in Bulgaria and Romania.‖ I was consulted by UEFA one day before the declaration was made. As a reaction to this declaration, Vasile Alexandru from the Romanian Football League insisted that racism did not exist in the stadiums in Romania. In the same statement, he said that ―the Roma are a shame for our country.‖ Cristi Bivolaru, head of international relations for the Romanian Football Federation (FRF) and an observer for UEFA, said about the incidents in Romania and Bulgaria: ―The English had two crows1 in their team, and the spectators in the stadium made crow sounds. They made crow sounds to the crows. That was all. UEFA fined them for that. There is no way there are major problems with racism as Johansson said.‖ A few days later, UEFA announced that it would increase the initial fine against Steaua Bucharest for racist incidents during the game versus Shelbourne. Steaua Bucuresti’s stadium was suspended for the next UEFA game. This was the first time a stadium was suspended for racism by UEFA.

Crow is a pejorative used against Roma and black players.


As a result, the story finally broke in the Romanian press. After a first defensive reaction media began condemning racism and reporting on racist incidents. Still, I became the main enemy of football supporters and mass media in Romania when the information I presented on racism in Romania to UEFA was leaked to the press. I received over a thousand of hate emails and hundreds of phone calls threatening my life and my family over the next few months. In February 2006, I participated in the Second UEFA’s FARE conference United Against Racism in Barcelona were I presented a tough material exposing racism in Romania. I also met Daniel Prodan of the Romanian Football Federation (RFF). The conference was a great inspiration for both of us, Daniel and the entire RFF team have since been the best partners I could have wished for to help combat racism in the stadiums—despite my harsh remarks criticising the RFF in Barcelona. 3. First Anti-Racism Game On 5 April 2006 in Bucharest, we organized a football game which targeted raise awareness against anti-Gypsyism, violence, and racism Opened by the head of the European Commission Delegation to Romania, Jonathan Scheele, and attended by the President of the Romanian Football Federation, Mircea Sandu, UEFA Representative Patrick Gasser, as well as numerous government representatives, the game sent a strong signal about the need to seriously tackle the rampant anti-Gypsyism in Romania. Representatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the National Council Against Discrimination, the Office of the Romanian Prime Minister, and over 20 civil organisations also attended. The match received attention from numerous media outlets, generating over 100 articles, reports, and news items in the Romanian press. Thanks to the enthusiasm of those involved, especially the powerful commitment of the Romanian Football Federation and UEFA to fighting racism, this was the starting point of a remarkable and totally unexpected turnaround in the Romanian media. See slide - 7 4. “Racism Breaks the Game” Campaign Begins The most popular game across Europe is football. It was clear from the April event that associating anti-racist messages with football would help reach a wide audience and achieve significant impact. Following the first event, we decided to develop a campaign called ―Racism Breaks the Game.‖ The main idea behind this campaign was to disseminate a general anti-racist message 3

that had the potential to be supported by a large majority of people, in contrast with a specifically Roma-focused campaign which risk defensive reactions on behalf of majority. To this, we introduced a visible, but not explicit, Roma element. By the end of October 2006, the campaign was picked up by Gazeta Sporturilor, one of the top-selling publications in Romanian, with an estimated weekend readership of 800,000. The magazine featured a front page article showing the national team’s player -Banel Nicolita, the country’s most famous Roma sportsman, but discussed racism in general rather than explicitly focusing on Roma. The article also included photos of some very famous black players. The page was printed in yellow and gray rather than black and white, and the headline ran: ―Imagine world football without black, as it is on this page…there would be no Pele and no Ronaldinho.‖ Subtitles read: ―Some Fans Hate Black - Racism Breaks the Game‖ and ―This is how a world where racists win would look.‖ The paper also featured an editorial written by the most famous sport journalist in Romania, Catalin Tolontan, dedicated to the fight against racism. Front Page of Gazeta Sporturilor special issue October 2006 –slide 8 This front page coverage in the Gazeta Sporturilor led to coverage of the campaign by six television stations. In addition, five other sports journals printed articles on the campaign. At least 200,000 people watched the television broadcasts. 5. Publicizing the Campaign The Romanian Football Federation hosted a press conference to start the campaign, which attracted a large number of journalists and four television stations. As a result, almost all the national newspapers printed articles about the campaign in their weekend editions. (A partial list of articles are available.) Based on estimates the newspapers provide for their sport sections, these articles reached a minimum of 650,000 readers. All nine games included in the campaign were televised. One to three minutes of discussion about racism aired before each game, with players wearing the campaign t-shirts and holding the banner Slide 9 The televised games reached an estimated audience of over 2.3 million, with an additional 130,000 people in the stadiums., the most popular Romanian sport television station, carried the games. The campaign also produced a radio spot, which was broadcast by eight radio stations for three days, reaching several thousand listeners. The campaign’s web banner is viewable here:


The campaign reached a minimum of three million people at the end of 2006 and was envisaged as a first step in a longer campaign promoting anti-racism through football. It linked the Romanian Football Federation, the National Council against Discrimination, and the Romanian Agency for Press Monitoring with the Decade of Roma Inclusion and helped us develop some important partnerships and contacts in the mass media. 6. Continuing the Campaign, 2007-2008 During all nine games of the opening round of the Romanian championship for 2007–2008, the same actions took place as described above. We changed the logos and the message slightly to enlarge the audience. The campaign became: ―Racism Breaks the Game - Violence Breaks Lives.‖ This reached 1.4 million estimated viewers for all games both on TV and the stadiums Two prime time talk shows on Romania’s best-known television stations, PRO-TV and B1TV, talked about the campaign. The campaign also targeted the October 2007 Romania- Netherlands game, the most watched match in Romania during this year. An estimate of 12 million people saw the game. As part of the campaign, we ran an anti-racism video clip before the game, during intermission, and afterward. The clip is about seven Romanian children who have to eliminate one in order to play a game of football. The children resolve to choose randomly – eenie meanie, miney, mo, but one cheats to eliminate the Roma child instead. The clip ends with the message ―Racism hits even outside the stadium.‖ Webclip: available upon request – slide 13 in the presentation The banners of the campaign appeared in front of the national teams and in front of the Dutch and the Romanian galleries. We reinforced the message with flyers, balloons, a press conference, and over 300 people wearing campaign t-shirts in the stadium, including the ball boys. Slide 14 7. Legal Impact At the beginning of March 2006, Romania adopted Ordinance 11/2006, aimed at preventing and reducing racism in Romanian stadiums. This ordinance not only bans materials which might incite spectators to racial hate and xenophobia, but places the responsibility on the organisers of events to prevent such banners or flags from entering the stadiums. The legislative act includes tough fines and consequences for racist and violent acts by spectators or organisers in the stadiums. Hooligans can be banned for a period of six months to three years. We were directly involved in the drafting of the ordinance.


In April 2007, we lobbied the Romanian Parliament together with the Romanian Football Federation and started a legislative initiative focused on Racism and Violence in the Stadiums, which was adopted in February 2008. 8. Children’s Campaign We organised five children’s tournaments to complement the professional campaign. On 29 October 2006, 16 teams participated in a competition called ―Football Against Racism.‖ Around 200,000 people were involved, including children’s teams from the most famous clubs in Bucharest. The children wore t-shirts against racism. Slide 15 Another game took place on 1 July 2007 to celebrate Children’s Day. The sport councillor of the Romanian presidency, Maria Bitang, gave an opening speech and supported the game. Famous Romanian footballers as well as the president of the National Council Against Discrimination also attended. Slide 16 Over 400 children played and around two thousand assisted, along with an equal number of adults as parents, teachers, and coaches. In total, over four thousand people were involved. One of the Roma children’s teams won third place. Slide 17 In September 2007, we tried to build on previous experiences to attract other important stakeholders to the campaign. We focused on engaging the main companies that sponsor football to build visibility and make these actions more self-sustaining. This time, we partnered with the international football association, FIFA. Pepsi and Adidas sponsored the game. Slide 19 In December 2007 we organised a football game with celebrities and media coverage that involved 300 Roma children. The Romanian president’s councillor for sport, Maria Bitang, named Banel Nicolita, the most famous Romanian Roma footballer, ―Ambassador Against Racism in Football‖ at the opening ceremony. Slides 20-21 The Romanian Football Federation was involved in planning these events.


Banel Nicolita participated in a follow-up television ad against racism and violence in football. ( also available upon request) 8. More Than a Football Campaign: Promoting Social Dialogue Through Sport In February 2008, FIFA launched a cover story on their website and distributed the video material for free to the world sport media. The cover story focused on our efforts against racism in Romania. In May 2008 we organised the highest-level seminar on promoting social dialogue and combating racism and violence in football, hosting the meeting in Romania. Eight ambassadors attended and 13 embassies sent representatives. The European Commission, the United Nations Development Programme, the Romanian Government, the Romanian Presidency, and Swiss and Austrian authorities directly responsible for organising the European Championship also participated. The Romanian Football Federation (FRR) sent its executive director, Ionut Lupescu. Slide 22 Posters Campaign During 2008 we had a number of posters campaign which we produced and convinced different advertising companies and the mayor of Bucharest to support. For 6 months we had posters with strong messages against racism on the streets of Bucharest at no other costs but including the logos of those who were willing to support our campaign. The advertising companies we worked with estimated that over 1.6 million people read our posters. Based on an idea that verbal violence on the stadiums- often of racist content could become reality the campaign was run under the slogan – ―Words can kill- stop racism and violence‖. Slides 23-24 Extending the campaign to other countries Together with FARE partners in Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria we started to implement similar types of campaigns in these countries. Meetings and seminars with the Football Federations in Bulgaria and Hungary as well as children tournaments in Slovakia took place in 2008. In September 2008 we had a children tournament sponsored by the Ministry of European Affairs of Netherlands and we are working on closer cooperation on the issue of racism, violence and education with the Football Federation in Netherlands. In May, 2009 we intend to organise a mixed DutchRomanian children tournament against racism in Romania. Slides 25-26 7

We thought it extremely important to capitalise on our momentum and extend the campaign beyond football. . On 20 April 2008, roughly 900 people participated in a ―Run Against Racism and Discrimination‖ on the streets of Bucharest. The event was part of Vivicitta, the largest intercultural run in the world. It had the support of the Romanian Football Federation as well as the Open Society Institute and was also held as an initiative under the Decade of Roma Inclusion. The main goal was to raise awareness about the xenophobic incidents that occurred in Italy since the end of 2007 due to increased interethnic tension between Italians and Romanians. The Romanian National Agency for Sports, the Romanian Federation for Athletics, the Local Administration of Bucharest, the Romanian Federation "Sports for All," the School Inspectorate of Bucharest, the Athletics Association of Bucharest, the Policy Center for Minorities and Roma, the National Agency for Roma, and the National Council Against Discrimination were all partners in the event. The Run against Racism and Discrimination aimed to create links between grassroots initiatives and the main sport institutions in Italy and Romania. It will be repeated around the time of International Roma Day (April 8) in the coming years. Participants in the run included well-known Roma, Romanian, and Italian athletes such as Gheorghe Simion, Daniel Prodan, and Daniele Masala. Slides 27-28 On 18 September 2008, we partnered with the main national football union in Romania to launch the ―Read with Me‖ campaign at an event hosted by the National Library of Romania. Focused on promoting reading with and for children in disadvantaged communities, the campaign builds on our previous campaigns. It is supported by all our previous partners and aims to help children not only to become more literate but also to be healthier and more open minded. The opening event brought together the Romanian Presidency, the Ministry of Education, the Romanian Football Federation, and the National Library, along with leading opinion makers and ambassadors to Bucharest from EU member states. Campaign supporters include: Romanian TV anchors Andreea Marin Banica and Robert Turcescu; tennis champion Ilie Nastase; multiple Olympic gold medallist Elisabeta Lipa; most famous Romanian boxer the Roma Marian Simion; director of the Romanian Football Federation Mircea Sandu; 2004 Palme d’Or winning director Catalin Mitulescu; and numerous Romanian journalists and celebrities. Slides 29-30 9. Conclusion As an ethnic Romani and an avid football fan and player, over the past 30 years I have witnessed spectacular changes in public attitudes related to racism and violence throughout 8

Europe. UEFA together with Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) have had a strong positive impact in this respect. In many ways, football’s governing bodies are far ahead of our societies, and many of its most visible players have been very vocal against racism. We hope to see these attitudes continue to spread to society more broadly, and campaigning in partnership with the RFF in Romania provides a case study of possible ways forward. Here, we managed to produce a snowball effect and had a very strong impact, although these messages need to be reinforced continually. Today, we The Roma Initiatives of Open Society Institute are trying to replicate similar campaign in Hungary and Bulgaria and to date have given 400,000 USD in grants targeting actions against racism in football. We would be happy to assist UEFA and other groups interested in developing similar campaigns in future. I look forward to partnering with you in the future. A coalition of famous footballers against racism which to encourage politicians in Europe to speak –up against racism could be much more effective than anything tried before and could provide a good starting point for others in sports and elsewhere to do the same. Thanks Valeriu Nicolae Senior Advocacy Officer Open Society Institute


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