Jeffrey Webb, Chairman of the FIFA Anti-Discrimination Taskforce
The head of FIFA’s anti-discrimination team has admitted that football homophobia is a serious concern with regard to Russia, the host of the 2018 World Cup.
The statement comes amidst criticism that football’s governing body failed to take action against anti-gay chanting by Mexican fans at some Brazil World Cup matches, despite its stated aim to combat homophobia and racism.
Speaking to reporters at a daily briefing last week Thursday, Jeffrey Webb, who is the Chairman of the FIFA Anti-Discrimination Taskforce, admitted that there was a “disconnect” between FIFA’s principles and their implementation.
According to Reuters, he criticised FIFA for not deploying trained anti-discrimination officers at the World Cup, as his task force had recommended in March.
Webb, who is also President of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, explained that the officers could have played a role in dealing with the Mexican anti-gay chants.
“This is exactly what we are trying to work on and it should have been in place for this World Cup,” he said.
Speaking about the 2018 hosts, he confirmed that homophobia “is much more of a problem in Russia.”
There has been a spike in homophobia in Russia since local and federal laws were enacted that ban so-called “gay propaganda,” effectively silencing the country’s LGBT community.
Webb added: “Russia itself needs a special task force, just for Russia and from an educational standpoint internally.”
During its matches at the World Cup, Mexico’s fans chanted “Puto” at their rivals. The Spanish word means male prostitute, but is widely used as a gay slur, equivalent to “fag” in English.
Despite a complaint about the chants from Football Against Racism Europe to FIFA, the incidents were dismissed by both the Mexican team and the football association.
At the same briefing, Claudio Sulser, head of the Disciplinary Committee, said that no action was taken against Mexico over the homophobic chanting because it had not been directed at a specific player. FIFA also ignored racist and neo-Nazi displays at some games.