On 13 October 2016, representatives of Football Supporters Europe (FSE) were part of a workshop to promote diversity and a discrimination and violence-free environment in international football as part of an International Sports Forum in Dobrograd, Russia.

The one-day session was organized by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human rights in cooperation with FSE and the Russian Ministry of Sport.

FSE members from CSKA Moscow and Zenit St Petersburg as well as club and supporter representatives from Borussia Dortmund (Germany) and Slovan Liberec (Czech Republic) were sharing their experiences with the audience, presenting their work on discrimination and racism-related violence and threats in football at their clubs and showing ways of tackling these problems. Best practice models in the dialogue with supporters were discussed with the aim of facilitating an inclusive, non-discriminatory, peaceful and welcoming atmosphere for all fans around football matches.

The conference was attended by a wide range of key stakeholders and decision-makers such as the EU Think Tank of Football Safety & Security Experts, the Ministry of Sport of the Russian Federation, as well as representatives of the Russian Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delegates from the Russian Premier League, the Local Organising Committee of World Cup 2018, Russian club representatives and representatives of the FARE network. The one-day session was moderated by Denis Rogachev from the Russian Football Union, jointly with representatives from FSE and Thomas Pollan from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

There was great consensus in the room among participants that taking measures against discrimination in football should be a matter of ongoing commitment to make sure that minority and vulnerable groups can attend football matches without fear. Positive fan-driven initiatives against discrimination and for an inclusive stadium environment needed to receive more attention and support from stakeholders and clubs in Russia and beyond. At the same time, greater attention needs to be paid also to the proper training of stewards on symbols and forms of discrimination. Ultimately, several measures were discussed that could be implemented in the run-up to World Cup 2018 by different stakeholders in the room. The World Cup 2018 is seen as a great basis for promoting international best practice in the field.

Robert Ustian, member of the FSE Committee from Russia said: “We were admittedly rather sceptic before the event but were surprised by the outcome and positive spirit during the discussions. I learned a lot from the work from our friends in Dortmund and Liberec and it shows that racism is by no means a unique issue of Russian football but that we can all do something to promote a welcoming atmosphere. It pays off when don’t deny there is a problem and doing something about it benefits the well-being of our clubs. As a Russian supporter, I really hope that this workshop can be a starting point for much more concrete actions promoting diversity at club level in my dear country”.

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