Soccer: FIFA under fire for disbanding anti-racism task force

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 26, 2016 10:46 AM

ZURICH (Reuters) - World soccer's governing body FIFA was under fire on Monday for winding up its anti-racism task force with former presidential candidate Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan describing the move as worrying and shameful.

The decision emerged on Friday when Osasu Obayiuwana, a Nigerian broadcaster and lawyer who was a member of the panel, published a letter on Twitter which he received from FIFA saying the task force was dissolved and no longer in operation".

FIFA did not reply to a request for comment on Monday.

"The notion that the current FIFA leadership believes that the task force’s recommendations have been implemented is shameful," said Prince Ali, who has twice run for the FIFA presidency.

He added that the announcement was "incredibly worrying".

"Never has the need to combat racism and racial discrimination been more evident than it is in the world we live in today," Prince Ali said.

"It is not something that any governing body with any semblance of responsibility can down play or deny.

"The reality, as with many programs within FIFA, is that the task force was never given real support since its conception and its role was more about FIFA's image than actually tackling the issues."

The letter published by Obayiuwana said the task force had achieved the goals which were set out for it when it was created under the leadership of disgraced former FIFA president Sepp Blatter in 2013.

"We are delighted to inform you that all of the task force's recommendations have been implemented and all resulting projects are ongoing," it said.

The task force's original chairman, Jeffrey Webb, was among high-ranking soccer officials arrested in Zurich in May last year.

Webb has since pleaded guilty in the United States to offences linked to racketeering, fraud and money-laundering.

He was one of 42 soccer officials and entities indicted last year, plunging FIFA into its worst ever crisis.

Webb was replaced as head of the task force by Constant Omary, a FIFA Council member from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Britain's Kick It Out anti-racism group said it was perplexed by FIFA's decision, especially as the move came less than two years before the World Cup in Russia, a country it said was "notorious for racism and abusive activities towards minorities".

It said football should seek to lead the way in combating violence, prejudice and hate and that organizations fighting racism would be "deeply disheartened to hear news of the disbandment, as they look to FIFA for leadership."

(Writing by Brian Homewood, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ed Osmond)