FIFA pledges to step up anti-racism efforts at World Cup matches after criticism in Brazil

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ZURICH — FIFA has committed to tackle racism incidents harder at World Cup matches after criticism of its lackluster efforts in Brazil.

Taking advice from its anti-racism task force, FIFA has pledged to help train and appoint anti-discrimination officers to work at qualifying matches for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The task force met Tuesday, chaired by FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb, who spoke out in Brazil against failures to gather evidence and prosecute disciplinary cases.

FIFA will also guide its 209 member federations toward "best practice on policy, education, sanctions and cooperation with civil society partners."

"Both measures send out a concrete message," Webb said in a statement published by FIFA. "Now we need the full support from clubs, member associations, NGOs and campaign groups."

The full support of FIFA appeared to be lacking in June when it did not sanction reported incidents of discriminatory chants and banners, and fans wearing black-face makeup.

Webb, who is black, also pointed then to challenges in tackling longstanding racism problems in Russian football.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter said, after watching the World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, that they would make the issue a priority.

FIFA's statement Tuesday acknowledged the importance of using the next World Cup to "showcase FIFA's zero-tolerance policy against any form of discrimination."

Russia's World Cup organizing committee deputy CEO Alexander Djordjadze said it was "developing a plan that will encompass all areas concerning the fight against discrimination."

Tuesday's meeting was attended by FIFA disciplinary panel chairman, Claudio Sulser who had spoken of "isolated cases" in Brazil when sharing a tense news conference platform with Webb during the tournament.

FIFA's approach contrasted with European football body UEFA, which worked with fans' monitoring group Fare to gather evidence and prosecute a series of cases at the 2012 European Championship, including against Russia fans.

In other issues Tuesday, FIFA's task force also discussed a recent study, by the Sports People's Think Tank group, into why so few coaches from ethnic minority backgrounds are employed by English professional clubs.

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