Beyond the pitch
The global game

Beyond the pitch ­

6 min. reading time

Social impact

As well as working with the World Health Organization to help limit the spread of the coronavirus in the football community, in 2020, FIFA engaged with a number of institutional partners on many fronts, using football to address important social issues far beyond the pitch.

FIFA and UNODC launch joint initiative tackling crime and abuse ­

I believe that the world’s game and the United Nations – the world’s organisation – make formidable allies in striving for development and peace.
Ghada Waly
UNODC Executive Director

FIFA and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) jointly reiterated their commitment to address threats posed by crime to sport through a landmark memorandum of understanding (MoU).

UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly specifically identified FIFA as an ideal partner to help in safeguarding football and sporting events from both corruption and crime. “Strength and cooperation between UNODC and FIFA will support governments and sports organisations to pursue effective anti-corruption action, building on the strong foundation provided by the UN Convention against Corruption.”

In addition to tackling crime and corruption, the wide-ranging MoU also pledges to consider ways in which football can be a vehicle to strengthen youth resilience to crime and substance use through the provision of life-skills training.

The cooperation between FIFA and UNODC will also extend to ensuring that children and young athletes are kept safe from violence and exploitation, via programmes such as FIFA Guardians™, while also harnessing the benefits of sports for women and girls in line with UN resolutions.

FIFA launched a consultation process that includes sports organisations, intergovernmental authorities, governments and specialist agencies with the objective of establishing an independent, multi-sports, multi-agency international entity to investigate abuse cases in sport.

Partnership with AFD for African development

As part of its partnership with the French Development Agency (AFD), FIFA announced the list of successful projects following a call for proposals under the Sport & Health – Africa 2020 initiative, launched in July 2020 in response to the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding allows the participating associations to roll out their respective projects, which seek to guarantee access to football in countries where the grassroots game is hamstrung by a lack of infrastructure or challenging circumstances. The initiative is one of a host of projects to have been implemented since FIFA and the AFD signed a framework agreement in 2019.

Innovation and the potential for replication were central considerations within the assessment process. Besides tackling issues such as gender, youth and the environment, another requirement was for the projects to be geared towards mobilising citizens in the target countries.

A total of eight football projects were selected from the 15 proposals submitted from across 12 English-, French- and Portuguese-speaking countries across sub-Saharan Africa. The successful projects use football to address issues ranging from education and social inclusion to sexual health and environmental awareness.

FIFA Guardians™ continues momentum with PACE child safeguarding panel ­

FIFA representatives joined leading policy makers and youth ambassadors in June to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on child protection and safeguarding.

Speaking at a webinar organised by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, FIFA Chief Social Responsibility and Education Officer Joyce Cook shared FIFA’s ongoing safeguarding work.

“Since the launch of FIFA Guardians last year, FIFA is continuing to introduce a range of measures to strengthen child safeguarding standards within football, including developing a FIFA Guardians training and education programme and capacity-building opportunities for member associations, establishing a dedicated FIFA safeguarding unit and launching the #SafeHome campaign during the COVID-19 pandemic to mobilise the power of football to help end domestic violence, which affects millions of women and children each year,” explained Joyce.

#SafeHome campaign in Africa and Europe ­

The campaign was a joint response from FIFA and the World Health Organization (WHO) to spikes in reports in 2020 of domestic violence as stay-at-home measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 put women and children experiencing abuse at greater risk.

FIFA and the WHO teamed up with the European Commission, the African Union and CAF to tackle the issue on the two continents via social media campaigns featuring FIFA Legends and present footballers, who shared important video messages offering support and practical advice to anyone experiencing violence.

FIFA and the European Commission together against racism ­

This initiative is very important for me. I am proud to be a true Belgian, a Belgian of colour. Sport has given me so many things in life. But unfortunately, racism exists in sport.
Mbo Mpenza

The European Commission launched its new Anti-racism Action Plan with the support of FIFA, a long-term partner on anti-discrimination matters. 

As well as helping to organise the event, FIFA was represented by former Belgium striker and FIFA Legend Mbo Mpenza, who shared his experience of racism in Europe during a round-table discussion. 

Mpenza expressed his faith in the impact of the action plan: “When you see that the European Commission is involved, along with FIFA, it shows sport can make a difference. Together we can do great things.”

European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli was clear about the aims of the action plan. “We need to put an emphasis on sports and the school curriculum. We need to work with schools so kids can ‘unlearn’ the stereotypes they hear from society and people around them.”

The fight against discrimination

Against the backdrop of Black Lives Matter protests around the world, FIFA used its considerable platform to reiterate the message that discrimination in any form has no place in football or society, with a series of digital campaigns in 2020. Forty FIFA Legends and current professionals, each sporting a black jersey, posted messages including #StopRacism and #StopDiscrimination on social media, reaching tens of millions of fans worldwide.

Kick-off meeting for the implementation of ASEAN-FIFA MoU ­

The inception workshop for the development of the collaboration plan under the ASEAN-FIFA memorandum of understanding, which aims to leverage football as a catalyst for social development and healthy lifestyles in South East Asia, took place in August.

Participants included representatives from Ministries of Sport and Education of ASEAN member states, the ASEAN Secretariat and FIFA.

The virtual workshop was an opportunity to provide participants with an overview of FIFA’s activities, ranging from cooperation with international and regional intergovernmental organisations through the fight against match manipulation, anti-doping, stadium safety and security, and child safeguarding to football development, via the FIFA Foundation Football for Schools Programme.

A landmark Middle East peace accord

FIFA added its support to peace efforts in the Middle East, with President Gianni Infantino attending the signing of a landmark agreement between Bahrain, Israel and the United Arab Emirates in Washington DC, USA.

Commenting on the historic initiative, President Infantino said: “We want football to continue contributing to positive change across the world, especially during the uncertain times that we are facing on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am delighted that FIFA can be here to play its part in supporting these positive developments.”

While in the US capital, the FIFA President also paid a courtesy visit to the offices of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and met the US Attorney General, using the opportunity to personally thank the US authorities, and especially the DOJ, for their work in the fight against corruption in football.

...and a historic agreement between UAE and Israel FAs

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel football associations signed a historic memorandum of understanding (MoU) at a ceremony held in Dubai, which was attended by FIFA President Gianni Infantino, UAEFA President Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi and IFA President Oren Hasson.

Among several joint activities, the MoU will see the organisation of friendly matches for national teams and clubs, the establishment of joint workshops for the technical and administrative members of the two associations, as well as the launch of development initiatives that contribute to supporting the game in the two countries.