European soccer body UEFA pledges at UN to do more to promote human rights and fight discrimination

GENEVA (AP) — European soccer body UEFA went to the United Nations on Tuesday pledging to do more to promote human rights and protect women from abuse in the sport.

At Champions League games next week, messages will be broadcast on television and social media for the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UEFA general secretary Theodore Theodoridis said at a sports conference in the UN’s European headquarters.

Theodoridis committed UEFA to “strengthen our fight against discriminations in all their forms” and “admitting your mistakes when you make them.”

“This shows leading by example,” he said, citing UEFA ordering a security review of the chaotic and poorly policed 2022 Champions League final it organized in Paris that put Liverpool and Real Madrid fans at risk.

“It was a near-miss, I have to say,” Theodoridis acknowledged. UEFA now consults more closely with the fan group Football Supporters Europe ahead of major games.

The event Tuesday was hosted by the Geneva-based Centre for Sport & Human Rights, UEFA’s risk adviser for the 2024 European Championship in men’s soccer which it wants to be inclusive and tackle discrimination.

“Human rights should be inherent in everything we do,” Theodoridis said, “in how we treat people and how we listen to them and how do we deliver on our mission in a way that respects and upholds the fundamental dignity of all people.”

UEFA made a joint human rights declaration in Berlin last month with German organizers of Euro 2024 that included a promise that all fans can “exercise their freedom of speech during the tournament.”

At the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, fans wearing or carrying rainbow symbols in support of the LGBTQ community became a cultural flashpoint in the conservative emirate.

Theodoridis said the commitment of Euro 2024 organizers to deliver an inclusive tournament would be shared at all levels including thousands of volunteers.

“We will also work to make sure that the rapid growth in the women’s game is joined by greater efforts to prevent harassment, abuse and violence against women,” he told delegates at the UN.

In September, Luis Rubiales resigned as both president of the Spanish soccer federation and a vice president of UEFA three weeks after he forcibly kissed national-team player Jenni Hermoso on the lips at the Women’s World Cup trophy presentation. World soccer body FIFA later suspended Rubiales from soccer for three years.


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