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FIFA plans to introduce a global “X” gesture for referees to highlight racist incidents

FIFA wants referees to signal racist incidents during matches with a “standard global gesture” of crossing the arms at the wrists in the shape of an “X”.

The idea, which will be voted on at the 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok on Friday, is part of FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s grand plans to eliminate racism in football.

Other measures in the five-pillar plan include calling on all 211 member associations to make racist insults a specific offense in their rules, calling on all governments to make racism a criminal offense and establishing a new players’ association. Anti-racism committee to monitor and advise the implementation of the plan.

Infantino has made this fight one of his main priorities for 2024 and called on European football associations at their congress in Paris in February to come to Bangkok with ideas to combat racism.

In a letter to member associations on the eve of the congress, new FIFA general secretary Mattias Grafstrom said: “It is time for football to unequivocally unite and commit as a global community to tackling the problem of racism in football.”

Grafstrom then explained that FIFA has been consulting for several months with current and former players who are “often the central victims of this heinous act” and that their views have informed the new proposal.

Most of the ideas are already in use. For example, in 2018, FIFA introduced a three-tiered approach to how match officials deal with racist shouting. Match officials were told to pause games, suspend games and, if the shouting continued, abandon games.

But the call to make racism in the football world a specific disciplinary offense and the X gesture are new.

While no one doubts Infantino’s seriousness on this issue, there will be some who will point out that he disbanded the FIFA Anti-Racism Task Force in 2016 because it had “completely fulfilled its interim mission.” This decision and its timing have been criticized as it was made in the run-up to the 2018 World Cup in Russia amid fears the tournament could be marred by racist acts in the stands.

The theory at the time was that Infantino bowed to pressure from Russia in the run-up to hosting the 2018 World Cup amid fears the tournament could be marred by racist acts in the stands.

And others will note that over the past six years, very few referees in many countries have used the three-tiered approach to dealing with racist behavior in games.

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