The fans of the national team of the Republic of Ireland have won the FIFA Fair Play Award for 1997.

The FIFA Committee for Security and Fair Play, meeting in Marseille under the chairmanship of Lennart Johansson (Sweden), decided to grant the annual award to the Irish supporters for their exemplary behaviour at Ireland team matches, especially the FIFA World Cup qualifying play-offs against Belgium.

FIFA Fair Play diplomas were also awarded to Julie Foudy, member of the United States women’s team, for her personal commitment to the campaign against child labour in the football equipment industry, and to Josef Zovinec of Slovakia, who recently retired after an active career of 60 years without a sending-off or suspension and including many years as voluntary coach of the national deaf and dumb team.

The Committee also agreed that the World Fair Play Day should become an annual event. In response to the first such Day, held on 20/21 September this year, 96% of national associations felt that it was so successful that it should be made an annual event.

Following reports from certain national associations and other bodies about incidents occurring at matches when spectators have used pen-sized laser pointers to shine into the eyes of players and risk blinding them, FIFA is to issue instructions to all national associations to take security measures to ban these instruments from football grounds.

Other issues discussed by the Committee included FIFA’s support for work being done to tackle the problem of racism in football (whereby it was felt that such efforts should be of a practical rather than academic nature), the continuing expansion of the FIFA For SOS Children’s Villages programme, and the latest status of moves to remove fences from the France 98 World Cup stadia (this point to be discussed also the next day by the FIFA Organising Committee for the World Cup).