Anti-discrimination and diversity conference attended by more than 600 people

1 April 2021 – This year, the anti-discrimination and diversity conference once again explored a wide range of important, highly sensitive and complex topics – and because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event took place online for the first time ever and was divided into three separate events. The focal points included racism and diversity, strategies for fighting right-wing extremism and dealing with sexualised violence in football and its fan scenes. The DFL launched the event back in 2014, and this was the second one in a row to be held in partnership with the DFB.

Diversity of participants

Whatever the topic, the conference aimed to inform attendees about all the latest developments as well as provide opportunities for sharing experiences and enabling dialogue, all with the ultimate aim of formulating and deepening shared strategies for action.

The invitation to attend this conference was initially accepted by over 600 participants from various areas including fan representatives and security officers, event managers and CSR officers at clubs in the Bundesliga, Bundesliga 2, 3. Liga, FLYERALARM Frauen-Bundesliga and the regional leagues as well as representatives of socio-educational fan projects.

Ataman and Thiam talk about the fight against racism

The first of the three events focused on racism and diversity. Journalist and author Ferda Ataman, who is chair of the ‘New German Media Makers Association’, kicked off with a motivational talk. The journalist explained how important it is to cultivate a shared understanding of racism so that diversity can flourish. Her key message: ‘Racism is an issue that affects society at every level, not just minorities. Racism affects us all to some extent.’

The following discussion, which was moderated by author and sociologist Robert Claus, gave others – among them Pablo Thiam, Head of the Wolfsburg Academy – the opportunity to talk about their approaches to fighting racism.

You can read a detailed article about the conference kick-off event here.

Identifying and acting: strategies for fighting right-wing extremism

The second event focused on strategies for fighting right-wing extremism. Anna Müller of the ‘Mobile Counselling Team against Right-Wing Extremism’ outlined how the right-wing extremist scene is organised and structured in the digital realm. Robert Claus then looked at the strategies that right-wing organisations employ in the world of football. In eleven small groups, the participants were then presented with a fictitious case study – involving discriminatory and racist incidents directed against a player – as a framework for discussing strategies to combat right-wing extremism.

The second event of the conference was also finished off with a lively virtual panel discussion involving not only the speakers but also Philipp Beitzel (Fan Project Coordination Centre), Luis Engelhardt (Maccabi Deutschland) as well as Frederick von Moers and Alexander Engelfried (both from Türkgücü München).

Dealing with and formulating strategies to fight sexualised violence

The third and final event of this year’s conference focused on strategies for dealing with sexualised violence in football and its fan scenes. Gitta Axmann, a research associate for the Institute of Sociology and Gender Studies at German Sport University Cologne and member of the ‘Safe Sport’ study team, kicked off proceedings with a talk on sexualised violence in the world of sport. This provided the participants with a basic introduction to the issue and specific insights into study results. The ‘Safe Sport’ research project, which was launched in October 2014, aims to help protect children and young people from sexualised violence in organised sport in Germany. The studies conducted by the members of the ‘Safe Sport’ project are based on a broad understanding of the term, encompassing sexualised violence with and without physical contact as well as any form of behaviour that violates a person’s boundaries.

It was then the turn of Paula Scholz to talk about the fight against sexualised violence in the world of football. Scholz is co-founder of the ‘Network against Sexism and Sexual Violence’, which, in late 2019, published an action plan to fight sexualised violence in football. The third event of the conference was again rounded off with a virtual panel discussion. Fascinating insight was provided here by Antje Hagel from the Offenbach Fan Project and Matthias Mühlen, who, as head of CSR for VfL Bochum 1848, presented his club’s comprehensive child protection strategy.

Broad commitment to the fight against discrimination

The DFL and the 36 clubs in the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 have been actively fighting for diversity and against racism and discrimination for many years. One example of their efforts is the ‘Pool for the Promotion of Innovative Football and Fan Culture’ (‘PFiFF’), which was launched in 2014 and, over the years, has supported numerous projects – including projects aimed at promoting tolerance and anti-discrimination. ‘PFiFF’ is provided with academic support from the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam. The ‘EXIT’ programme, which is aimed at people leaving the extreme right-wing subculture, also supports PFiFF in the steering group.