Andrea Agnelli believes football needs to fight for a change of culture in order to fully rid its stadia of discrimination and become a place for families and children to enjoy the game in a welcoming environment.
The Juventus president, speaking live on CNN’s World Sport show, started by outlining the club’s tireless efforts to tackle social exclusion through carefully planned charity projects before reflecting on the overall landscape in Italy.
And he remains confident that the issue can be efficiently dealt with through both the positive work of UEFA and willingness of clubs to collaborate by promoting correct attitudes across the board.
Agnelli began: “Any form of racism should be fought and condemned. We’re very keen on this at Juventus. We have two projects, sponsored by UNESCO, that are involved in promoting social integration across the country: ‘Gioca con Me’ and ‘Un Calcio al Razzismo’.
“Italy has a very unique situation at the moment: one thing is racism, one thing is territorial discrimination. Italy has always been the country of very small villages and a lot of that has been considered in Italian Federation board meetings which have enhanced the principles of UEFA. It’s something that we need to look into ourselves. It’s important to say that much of what’s happening in the country today is not racism but in fact a peculiarity typical to Italy.
“It’s a matter of culture, you have to raise the culture. Many of these chants have been the same for the past 20 to 25 years. They’ve gone unheard for the past 20 years and suddenly, because there is a right and reasonable principle which is enhanced by UEFA and embraced by the federations and the clubs, it’s now that we’re trying to fight against it.
“We need to strive for a change of culture and this requires a bit of time. So we have to make sure we take small steps in the same direction and fight to try and eradicate all forms of racism from the grounds. Those are the places where we want to take our children and families and it’s important to make sure that the right messages are being passed across in football stadia.”
Agnelli also touched on the much-debated topic of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. While there has been plenty of talk regarding the tournament being rescheduled from the traditional summer months of June and July, Agnelli believes it is fundamental that all parties – clubs, players, sponsors and broadcasters – are each given the opportunity to be correctly represented before a final decision is made.
He continued: “It’s good that there’s a lot of discussion about it. Everyone within the football family wants to make sure that the right choice is made. I think there’s been a clear position from the FIFA Executives Committee, who say that a decision will be taken after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. That should leave us plenty of time to come to a correct conclusion.
“We tend to speak a lot about the players who feature in the World Cup, but they’re only a minority of those involved, we have to think about what the rest of the football community will do. What is important is that the clubs’ points of view will be listened to and the ECA will ensure that we are represented by the right bodies.
“The TV broadcasters will have their own say. For instance, with the American market, would a product that could potentially go on sale during the regular season of NFL, NBA, NHL have the same value as it would in June or July? There are a lot of players that need to come to an agreement, but I’m confident that with the good will of everybody a good solution will be found within the interest of football itself.”