A child arrives for the semifinal match between Croatia and England at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Sexism tops racism as a World Cup fan problem in Russia

July 11, 2018 - 1:14 pm
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MOSCOW (AP) — Sexism has been a bigger problem than racism at the World Cup in Russia, according to anti-discrimination experts advising FIFA.

Fans harassing female broadcasters while they worked are among about 30 cases of "sexism on the streets" reported to FIFA by the Fare network.

Analyzing the World Cup's issues at a briefing Wednesday, the head of FIFA's diversity program also acknowledged wanting fewer images of attractive women in stadiums to be shown on future broadcasts. Federico Addiechi said FIFA plans to talk with national broadcasters and its own TV production team about the issue.

Racism was predicted to be the main World Cup problem because of longstanding issues in Russian soccer and other European fan bases.

"There haven't been a great deal of incidents of the type we expected," Fare director Piara Powar said, praising Russian people who "played a magnificent role making people feel welcome."

Instead, soccer's treatment of female media workers and fans provoked debate.

Powar said about half of those reported incidents involved female broadcasters being "accosted while on air." He estimated up to 10 times more unreported cases where Russian women were targeted.

With World Cup costs for travel and tickets — $105 for the cheapest seats at group games for visitors — always rising, the different audience for games helps explain changing patterns of behavior.

Powar said with Russian authorities also keeping home-grown hooligans away from games, the World Cup had an international crowd "very different to the fans that come to domestic football."

"If you come to this tournament with prejudices, and don't like people from a different nationality, then generally you're in the wrong place," he said.

Still, FIFA did impose fines during the tournament on soccer federations including Serbia, Russia and Poland for racist, nationalist and offensive banners displayed by fans at games. The fines started at 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,100) for a first incident.

FIFA and Russian organizers worked to identify fans linked to incidents of discrimination in Russia, and the most public violent incident was when Argentina fans attacked Croatia fans inside a stadium.

Addiechi said some of the 1.5 million people issued with fan identification laminates had them stripped, and were deported. About 700,000 of the Fan IDs went to international visitors, he said.

FIFA worked with Fare to ensure three expert monitors attend each of 64 World Cup games.

At future tournaments, FIFA hopes hundreds of millions of television viewers worldwide will get a more respectful view of women at games.

Addiechi said FIFA's stance was "a normal evolution," and broadcasts in Russia have already improved from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

FIFA has already intervened with broadcasters "on a case-by-case basis when some cases arose, and they were pretty evident," Addiechi said.

Taking lessons from the World Cup in Russia, Powar said he hoped for more coordination between FIFA and its six continental governing bodies to ensure a consistency of monitoring and punishing discrimination cases.

Russia has won praise for its hosting of the World Cup, including embracing some social programs FIFA requires of host nations.

Addiechi acknowledged FIFA could have "a limited impact" from next week, and looked to former Russia player Alexei Smertin to continue leading its anti-discrimination work.

"We definitely expect and count on the support of Alexei," Addiechi said, "and the Russian football union."

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