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Circular no. 1856 - Anti-discrimination measures for the preliminary competition of the FIFA World Cup 2026™

Circular no. 1856 - Anti-discrimination measures for the preliminary competition of the FIFA World Cup 2026™

TO THE MEMBER ASSOCIATIONS OF FIFA

Circular no. 1856

Zurich, 1 September 2023

SG/agr/gde

Anti-discrimination measures for the preliminary competition of the FIFA World Cup 2026™

Dear Sir or Madam,

Below you will find information regarding the anti-discrimination measures that apply for all qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup 2026™, and that require your active support, especially as a home member association. The information is structured as follows:

I. Procedure for discriminatory incidents (including the three-step procedure for referees)

II. Anti-discrimination monitoring system

III. Recommendations to support preventive measures of the participating member associations

We kindly ask you to carefully read the following instructions and inform the relevant departments in your association accordingly in order to ensure a diverse and discrimination-free competition.

I. Procedure for discriminatory incidents (including the three-step procedure for referees)

A. Safety and security measures

In general, the security personnel responsible for home matches must be informed of the measures in place to ensure respect for diversity and anti-discrimination. These could be instructions or discussions with spectators, as well as the removal of discriminatory banners and other items or of spectators from the stadium. We recommend the Fare network’s Global Guide to Discriminatory Practices in Football as a useful aid to identifying discriminatory behaviour: https://farenet.org/global-guide-to-discriminatory-practices-in-football.

B. Proactive pre-match stadium announcement 

For the purpose of informing spectators, a stadium announcement text is available on the FIFA Competitions extranet which shall be read or broadcast as preventive measure before each match. The home association is responsible for ensuring implementation in the relevant languages.

C. Reactive stadium announcement without interrupting the match 

FIFA provides you with a stadium announcement text on the FIFA Competitions extranet, which allows you to respond directly to discriminatory incidents during a match in the stadium (based on article 4 of the FIFA Statutes and article 15 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code), without interrupting the match. The fourth official informs the referee after every stadium announcement in response to an incident. The home association is responsible for ensuring implementation in the relevant languages.

In addition, FIFA also welcomes the use of your own event-related announcements or video clips responding to discriminatory incidents.

D. Three-step procedure

If the above measures are unsuccessful or if a sudden serious discriminatory incident occurs, the three-step procedure for referees will be applied, which FIFA has used for all its tournaments since the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017. The home association is responsible for providing the referee with operational support.

Following the three-step procedure, referees can, in the event of serious discriminatory incidents in the stadium: 

1. stop the match (followed by a stadium announcement with the necessary explanation and request for the discriminatory incident to stop);

2. suspend the match by sending the players back to the changing room for an appropriate period of time (followed by a stadium announcement with the necessary explanation and request for the discriminatory incident to stop);

3. abandon the match (followed by a stadium announcement with the necessary explanation and request to leave the stadium in accordance with the instructions of the security personnel).

The detailed description of the steps in the three-step procedure and the operational responsibility of the home association can be found on the FIFA Competitions extranet.

The home association is responsible for ensuring implementation with regards to the involvement of their relevant functional areas and the display of stadium announcement in the relevant languages.

II. Anti-discrimination monitoring system

A. Background

Based on the resolution of the 63rd FIFA Congress on the fight against racism and discrimination and the experiences of FIFA and the Fare network between 2015 and 2023 the anti-discrimination monitoring system became a robust and reliable tool to identify discriminatory incidents following article 4 of the FIFA Statutes and article 15 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code. It supports disciplinary procedures through match reports including evidence material of possible discriminatory incidents. The anti-discrimination monitoring system will again be in place for the FIFA World Cup 2026™ preliminary competition (hereinafter “qualifiers”) and selected friendly matches.

B. Methodology

The anti-discrimination monitoring system comprises:

1. assessment of all qualifying matches to identify risk matches in relation to possible discriminatory incidents;

2. deployment of anti-discrimination match observer/s (hereinafter: “observer”) at high risk matches in relation to possible discriminatory incidents;

3. match observation and reporting (including evidence material) to support the secretariat of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee.

B.1 Risk assessment

Identifying risk matches involves all forms of discrimination as mentioned in the FIFA Statutes and the FIFA Disciplinary Code, and includes the following match-specific evaluation criteria:

• previous discriminatory incidents at or after matches involving the participating teams/associations; 4

• known far-right and other xenophobic groups, including their football-related activities and supporter links in the countries of the participating teams/associations;

• tendency to commit acts of homophobia, other forms of LGBTQI+phobia or overt sexist abuse based on traditional chants or previous history;

• the historical context of the participating teams/associations in terms of tension or even violence (including in relation to specific sensitive events or days);

• troublesome relationships between the participating teams’/associations’ countries;

• any religious tension relating to the national identities of the participating teams/associations;

• current geopolitical crises in the countries of the participating teams/associations and in their region that could affect the spectators’ attitude;

• possible crowd dynamics during the match;

• the importance of the match in the context of the competition and the dynamics that could result from it.

Based on the risk assessment, all qualifiers and selected friendlies will be classified as follows:

• GREEN : for matches with a low risk of discriminatory incidents. No observer will be appointed.

• YELLOW : for matches with a medium risk of discriminatory incidents and for which media monitoring and other measures may be necessary. After submitting the risk assessment, FIFA and its service provider Fare network will continue to assess the temporary dynamics of yellow matches until match day and may change a yellow match into a red match. Otherwise, no observer will be appointed.

• RED : for matches with a high probability of discriminatory incidents and for which observers will be appointed.

B.2 Deployment of anti-discrimination match observers

An observer is appointed for each red match by the Fare network, except for those red matches where additional risk factors are in play and require the appointment of two observers. Fare network relies on a pool of trained observers, who are anti-discrimination experts assigned to specific regions and: 

• understand the language including idiosyncrasies of the country/team they are appointed to observe;

• know the symbols and codes used in the country/local environment/fan culture;

• know the fan culture of the country/team/local environment;

• have an understanding of any wider social and (geo-)political issues at play

• have an understanding of the specific context of the words, expressions and chants used in the football context of the given country; 

• are aware of article 4 of the FIFA Statutes and other relevant FIFA regulations;

• sign a code of conduct to guarantee their neutrality.

Fare network will submit the list of observers to FIFA aligned with the beginning of the regional qualifiers in the respective confederations and provide regular updates to that list. Fare network will store the confirmation that each observer has signed their code of conduct and completed the observer training.

Observers will work anonymously at matches to protect their identity for reasons of personal safety. Each observer is given a number by Fare network which will appear on the antidiscrimination match reports to identify him/her at a particular match. Their identity will only be shared with FIFA’s judicial bodies and/or CAS if required and if significant to the case. The identity of observers will not be disclosed to respondents or other parties to hearings (member associations etc.) and their representatives.

B.3 Delivery of match observation and reporting

The observer/s conduct/s pre-match research identifying potential pre-planned discriminatory displays by both teams’ followers. At the match itself, each observer shall observe and record evidence of any discriminatory incidents in the stadium or its immediate vicinity.

If discriminatory incidents are witnessed by an observer, he/she shall submit a special match report – written in English – to the Fare network after the match. This anti-discrimination match report shall describe the discriminatory incident(s) witnessed, specifying:

• where in the stadium (or in its immediate vicinity) the incident(s) took place;

• the exact time the incident(s) took place;

• which team the spectator/s causing the incident(s) was/were supporting;

• approximately how many spectators were involved.

The Fare network shall ensure that the anti-discrimination match report meets the following requirements:

• The report is submitted in English using the standard reporting form, and the observer has answered all questions on the form.

• If the incident contains any wording, this wording should be quoted in the original language used by the spectators as well as translated into English.

• The report documents the facts accurately and consistently, giving as full a picture as possible of the incidents.

• All reported incidents are supported by documentary evidence (such as photographs, videos or audio recordings). 

• The report includes the observer’s number and the date of submission.

The Fare network shall correct any grammatical and formal errors.

Anti-discrimination match reports are not regarded as FIFA match officials’ reports within the meaning of art. 40 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code.

C. Disciplinary procedure

Immediately after reviewing the anti-discrimination match report, the secretariat of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee may request the FIFA Human Rights & Anti-Discrimination Department to provide an additional internal memo to provide background and additional information on a reported incident if it is deemed relevant.

Thereafter, the chair of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee will be responsible for deciding whether or not to open proceedings on the basis of the anti-discrimination match report, the FIFA Match Commissioner’s report, other evidence provided by third parties.

III. Recommendations to support preventive measures of the participating member associations

FIFA relies on the support of all participating member associations and their teams to ensure a discrimination-free environment during the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. For preventive preparation, see the FIFA Good Practice Guide on Diversity and Anti-Discrimination (circular no. 1632) for detailed guidance on your diversity and anti-discrimination work and examples of actions and initiatives:

• English

• French

• Spanish

We would like to thank you in advance for your support in the fight against discrimination during the qualifying matches of the FIFA World Cup 2026™ and in football around the world. 

Yours faithfully,

FÉDÉRATION INTERNATIONALE

DE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION

Fatma Samoura

Secretary General

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