Football clubs attend first 'Us against Them Mentality' workshop

Racist and discriminatory chants, choruses or insults have no place in football. Today, on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we want to reiterate that message. On this important day, the Pro League, its partner Kazerne Dossin and Flemish Minister Bart Somers will kick off the workshops 'Us against Them Mentality in football' to better arm clubs against the problem.

Since 2018, the Pro League has been working intensively on an action plan regarding discriminatory and offensive chants. After initially drawing up a manual with best practices for our clubs, the Pro League joined forces with Kazerne Dossin in the next phase. Our partner looks for the origin of social problems in group dynamics and applies these insights to football. 

“Football clubs provide connection in an atmosphere of play and competition, but sometimes 'Us against Them' dynamics in and around the stadium become toxic or violent. With insight and an appropriate deployment of people and resources, the clubs themselves can really make a difference,” Kazerne Dossin director, Tomas Baum, emphasises. “Together with the Pro League, we use this course to make football professionals aware of the many possibilities.

Picture: Tomas Baum (l) and Bart Somers (r)

The Pro League consistently condemns racism and discrimination. Together with Kazerne Dossin, individual learning courses were created for those who were banned from the stadium. Supporters who have crossed the line will first have to follow specific training in the Mechelen museum and knowledge centre before they can regain their place in the stands after their ban. The emphasis of these one-on-one courses is on the specific football context and group dynamics.

Preventive training

The partnership also provides preventive training for employees of our professional clubs. These workshops teach them to understand the 'Us against Them' dynamics in a stadium and provide tools to act consciously in their role. The first of two Dutch-language modules took place this morning at Kazerne Dossin. On Wednesday, French-speaking club employees will start the training. In total, about fifty managers, security officers, stewards and community managers attend the workshops.

The professional clubs are already doing a lot, but there is still work to be done. They have a great social responsibility. Together with Kazerne Dossin, the Pro League is working on a change of culture.Flemish Minister Bart Somers

The collaboration with Kazerne Dossin is made possible in part by Flemish Minister for Equal Opportunities, Bart Somers. “Unfortunately, racism and discrimination are still present in our football stadiums. The professional clubs are already doing a lot, but there is still work to be done. They have a great social responsibility. Together with Kazerne Dossin, the Pro League is working on a change of culture," according to Bart Somers, who introduced the first workshop. “When fellow supporters, bystanders and club employees call someone to account for wrong behaviour, it has a much greater effect than when a politician or police officer does this. In this way, tackling racism becomes part of the DNA of a football club.”

Thanks to the support of the Minister of the Interior, Annelies Verlinden, via the King Baudouin Foundation, French-language programmes were also set up. For more information on the collaboration with Kazerne Dossin, please view our Q&A.

Step by step towards a positive football experience

The reactive and preventive courses developed by the Pro League and Kazerne Dossin are the next logical step in the pursuit of a diverse and inclusive football climate. In recent years, Belgian professional football has taken various initiatives. An overview:

  • Permanent raising of awareness

The Pro League insists on condemning any discriminatory incident. Everyone, regardless of religion, nature, or origin, has a place in football. This is the message that we unambiguously propagate in various awareness-raising and information campaigns. 

  • Manual

In 2019, the Pro League published a manual for its clubs, containing guidelines and best practices to decisively tackle racism and discrimination in football stadiums. The 60-page book, which also includes testimonials and information about the disciplinary procedures, is based on three pillars: awareness-raising, identification and sanctioning, and (re)education.

  • Reporting point

The Pro League encourages its supporters to help ban racism and discrimination from its stadiums. Since last year, anyone who is a victim or witness of an incident around the football field can report this via a reporting button on our website. The Pro League recommends the club(s) concerned to investigate these reports and to take appropriate action. 

  • Kazerne Dossin

With the collaboration with Kazerne Dossin, the Pro League has reached a new milestone. Both the individual (for fans) and collective courses (for clubs) are customised where necessary. The feedback that Kazerne Dossin receives from club employees is crucial and will be used in the creation of a new manual for clubs. 

However, the Pro League is not resting on its laurels. Our Football & Community department is now also working on a 'Players Council for Racism', in which professional football players help determine policy, based on their personal experiences. In addition, there will be a workshop on online hate speech that will help clubs to deal with racism and discrimination on social media.

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