FIFA wants to crack down on broadcasters picking out “hot women” in the crowd at games as part of its efforts to tackle sexism in football.
Pre-tournament concerns that Russia 2018 would be tarnished by homophobia and racism have not materialised but sexism has been an issue.
The anti-discrimination group Fare Network has been working with FIFA to monitor behaviour at and around World Cup games and its executive director Piara Powar said sexism had been the biggest problem at Russia 2018.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference on diversity issues before England’s semi-final against Croatia, Powar said his team have “documented more than 30 cases” of mainly Russian women being “accosted in the streets” by male fans but believes the real number of incidents is likely to be “10 times this”.
He also said there have been several cases of female reporters being grabbed or kissed whilst on air.
When asked what FIFA could do to tackle this, the federation’s diversity boss Federico Addiechi said it has been working with the local organisers and Russian police to identify these fans and, when appropriate, they have lost their FAN-IDs and been forced to leave the country.
But he then said FIFA has told its broadcast service to stop zooming in on “hot women” in the crowd and has been monitoring what the various national rights-holders have been doing, too.
Asked if this was now official FIFA policy, Addiechi said: “This is one of the activities that we definitely will have in the future – it’s a normal evolution.
“We have done it on a case-by-case basis when some cases arose and they were pretty evident.
“We’ve done it with individual broadcasters. We’ve done it as well with our host broadcast services.”
He added it was not yet part of a “proactive campaign” but said “we’ll take action against things that are wrong”.
It is unclear if Russia’s host broadcasters have been warned about their habit of picking out pretty faces, as there was a well-publicised case at the beginning of the tournament involving a glamour model who received considerable attention during Russia’s opening game against Saudi Arabia.
In regard to other forms of discrimination, Addiechi and Powar agreed the various measures taken by the authorities – banning orders, diversity training and so on – were successful and the Russian people themselves have been great hosts.
Argentina’s FA has received the biggest fine – nearly £80,000 – from FIFA so far this tournament for the crowd disturbances during their 3-0 defeat by Croatia. It is understood more than 20 supporters were identified by the authorities and they lost their FAN-IDs and were sent home.
The Russian FA’s diversity officer Alexey Smertin, the former Chelsea midfielder, said FAN-IDs – which are similar to the identification cards Margaret Thatcher proposed as a solution to English hooliganism in the 1980s – will be used in domestic football in Russia from next season.
Powar, however, said he believes football could be more joined-up in how it deals with repeat offenders, such as Croatian fans and their nationalist banners and the homophobic chants popular with fans from Mexico and some South American teams.
“There is an issue with the continuity of sanctions,” said Powar, noting that both Croatia and Mexico have been punished by their regional confederations several times in the past.
“There is a gap there that the FAs and fans have taken advantage of. When FAs are consistent offenders that needs to be taken into account.”