The phenomenon of racism in football is obviously not as old as the scourge of racism in society in general, but neither is it as recent as the current worrying situation may lead some to believe. And the time has come to tackle the problem unequivocally.

FIFA has been aware of the racism problem for some time but recent events, especially in Europe, have given the need for concerted action an added urgency. While the main emphasis of the practical measures will inevitably remain at national and local level, FIFA has recognised the unique role it has in co-ordinating opinions and expertise from all corners of the globe to share experiences and to find effective solutions.

The term "racism" is not easy to define, for it comes in many forms. Essentially, however, it is based upon skin colour as an outward indication of ethnic origin. Incongruously, the problem has sharpened just at a time when players have become more mobile than ever, not only between countries but between continents, and at a time when ethnic families have been otherwise integrated in their adopted homeland for several generations. But the trend also coincides with a deeply worrying increase in extreme right-wing activities outside the football stadium.

"The solution to this problem, as to any other, lies firstly in identifying it and acknowledging its existence," says FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. "Anyone who complacently maintains that racism is impossible in their territory is not only wrong but irresponsible."