‘Preventing racism, xenophobia and related intolerance in sport across the European Union: The Case of Sweden’,

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There are two types of major problems in relation to racism in sports in Sweden. On the one hand, there is a lack of knowledge about racism within youth and women’s sports, and there are reasons to suspect that women and girls with ethnic minority background are very poorly represented within sports in Sweden. There is, in other words, a structural problem of women and girls’ participation in sports, a problem which is likely to persist if immigrant girls continue not to participate in sports.On the other hand, we have the uneven men participation in professional sports contexts.

Men with ethnic minority background are very well represented in football, yet very poorly represented in ice hockey but a lot better in athletics. The same development can be seen in immigrant boys’ participation in sports.However, on the structural level, immigrant men seldom access the positions of authority and influence within football or other sports where they are well- represented.Furthermore, the frequency of racist incidents is depicted differently, depending on the source of information.

The interviewed representatives from sports associations argue that racist incidents are few and rare. However, the media presents a more problematic picture, where football players of African decent are often subjected to racist verbal attacks during the games, often from the supporters of the opposite team, but not seldom from the players of the opposite team or the referees. The high number of foreign-born and ethnic minority players within football, and the racist incidents that have followed their presence have led to various measures, taken by the clubs and football associations. The statues of the National Football Association includes statues, prohibiting racism and racist language, as well as sanctions for the teams which have racist supporters. 

On the overall level, one could argue that racist incidents are only visible to the extent that ethnic minority players are represented in the sport. Therefore, while few racist incidents are reported in regard to ice hockey and athletics, that can be explained by the absence of ethnic minority players. There is a considerable gap in the data available on the ethnic minorities in sports, and the gap is particularly significant in regard to amateur sports and women sports. There is a need of statistical analysis in these two areas.

When it comes to the role sports play in the general awareness-raising and positive initiatives in relation to racism prevention, one sport that has come relatively far is football. The role model position that football players with an ethnic minority background have for youth with immigrant background cannot be underestimated. However, there are no recorded attempts to practice systematic diversity management or initiate anti-racism training within various sports associations. It appears that the general development of racism prevention within sports is characterized by active attempts to involve immigrant youth in sports, something that will affect the future of sports. However, these attempts seem to be relatively unsuccessful and perhaps not sufficient in regard to girls and sports, characterized by a low amount of role models with immigrant background. Also, no active attempts to deal with structural racism within all sports and the advancement of immigrant players to leadership positions exist.

Source: ‘Preventing racism, xenophobia and related intolerance in sport across the European Union: The Case of Sweden’,