FIFA, the governing body of international soccer, will participate in a presentation and panel discussion on how the organization is working to fight discrimination in its game, Sept 23, at William Paterson University, ROI-NJ has learned.
The event, which will take place shortly after the conclusion of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, will mark the first time FIFA officials will detail their new-found efforts on DEI issues in the United States. It will be co-sponsored by the N.J. Pride Chamber and William Paterson University.
Gerd Dembowski, the senior diversity & anti-discrimination manager for FIFA will give a presentation. Representatives from the Red Bulls, Gotham FC and NYCFC also are expected to participate.
The event came together thanks to the efforts of Gus Penaranda, the executive director of the N.J. Pride Chamber and the former president of the International Gay & Lesbian Football Association.
Last September, Penaranda watched virtually as Dembowski give a presentation of FIFA’s five-pillar strategic approach toward diversity and anti-discrimination at an event at a university in Trinidad & Tobago.
“I thought the presentation was very informative and gave a great inside look at what FIFA was doing to try to address the issue of diversity, equity and inclusion,” Penaranda said. “This wasn’t just about LGBTQ issues, because there’s a lot of other forms of discrimination, whether it be by race or gender.
FIFA’s anti-discrimination efforts
Gerd Dembowski, senior diversity and anti-discrimination manager at FIFA, said players, officials and fans face racist, sexist and homophobic abuse on and off the field and in the stands. FIFA has developed a framework for governing sporting bodies to incorporate inclusiveness as part of their overall strategic development plans, including:
· FIFA Good Practice Guide on Diversity and Anti-Discrimination
· Global Guide to Discriminatory Practices in Football (by FARE network)
· FIFA Human Rights Policy
· FIFA Code of Ethics
· FIFA Code of Conduct
· FIFA Disciplinary Code
· FIFA Sexual Harassment and Workplace Bullying Directives
· FIFA Stadium Safety and Security Regulations
“It was a very detailed presentation, and he took questions at the end. I thought it would be great to bring this type of presentation to New Jersey. I think it’s something any organization would benefit from hearing, not just sports organizations.”
Shortly thereafter, Penaranda reached out to Dembowski to see if he would be interested in giving a talk in the U.S.
It turns out, he was.
Dembroski quickly returned and email and they began making plans, along with William Paterson President Richard Helldobler, to bring an event to New Jersey.
To be sure: FIFA has had a long history of discrimination in its game, with incidents both from players and fans and against players and fans, involving race, gender and the LGBTQ+ community.
In 2015, FIFA began working with the FARE network, an organization with extensive experience in the fight against discrimination in football. At that time, it introduced its first ever anti-discrimination monitoring system – a system still implemented at FIFA events today.
Dembroski, who began working with FIFA on the issue in 2014, was promoted to his current position in May of 2022.
Penaranda said he has been impressed by FIFA’s willingness to confront the issue head on.
“They are trying to make their game and society better,” he said.