Indicator history

Close Window

Sport: Effective participation of migrants in sport

Key Area:
Public Life, Culture, Sport & Media
Discrimination, Equality
23/02/2012 - 19:39
Short Answer

Although no systematic data is collected, there are institutional barriers in the effective participation of migrants in sports.

Qualitative Info

 There is no authority maintaining statistics on the representation of migrants and ethnic minorities in any of the sports. The foreigners employed by professional football and basketball teams are usually specially recruited well-paid professionals rather than members of immigrant communities living in Cyprus, who are located in the lowest echelons of the labour hierarchy.

 In view of this, it is not possible to quantify the extent of the involvement of migrants in sports, where the only visible non-natives are the professional athletes and coaches of the top leagues in football and basketball. Currently there is no ‘official’ or ‘unofficial’ quota system. Regulations provide that out of the 26 professionals allowed to play in the first division football teams, nine have to be “home grown”; however “home grown” does not necessarily mean Cypriots; the rule stipulates that anyone who is an EU citizen and at the age of 18 is registered with a Cypriot team is considered “home grown”.

The RAXEN Thematic Study on Cyprus of March 2009 entitled ‘Preventing racism, xenophobia and related intolerance in sport across the European Union’ indicated that there was a problem of exploitation and abuse of foreign footballers who were registered merely as ‘amateurs’ and thus not given a footballer’s contract. The practice detected was that, instead of properly registering them as professionals, some clubs used to register them as migrant workers in one of the other occupations that allow for third country migrant workers: the result was that they were often exploited, left unpaid and expelled from the country.

A law that came into force in 2008 (Law on the Prevention and Combating of Violence in Sports Venues N. 48(I)/2008) prohibits statements by sports actors amounting to encouragement of violence and of feelings of prejudice, racism or discrimination against inter alia other spectators or sports fans, sports actors, journalists, players or referees. Such statements are punishable with a fine not exceeding Euros 5,000 (article 71). A further provision of the same law (article 72) prohibits the use of posters or banners with racist or insulting content, gestures or the uttering of words with racist or insulting content, the penalty for which is imprisonment not exceeding six months and/or a fine not exceeding Euros 1,000. No sanctions are foreseen against sport associations or sport clubs that have racist practices in place or that fail to take action against racist behaviour by their fans. This allows the clubs to evade responsibility for the actions of their fans, even when the fans are using the club premises to launch their various racist activities. Also, the provisions of this law are not always implemented. The RAXEN Thematic Study on preventing racism, xenophobia and related intolerance referred to above records a number of instances of racial abuse by fans against black footballers where the referee, the observer and police failed to take any action or refer the matter to the Tribunal of the Cyprus Football Association. Racism is only verbally condemned to avoid its public display. The approach taken by the sports authorities so far has been one of denial and complacency, adopting ‘low profile measures’ so as “not to provoke fans”, based on the assumption that the implementation of a repressive regime confined to the sporting field (just before, during and immediately after the match) and the imposition of a few fines to teams for fan behaviour, will eradicate the problem. This policy is not only misguided but may be sending the wrong messages to racist groups. In 2005, despite strong advice from FARE and UEFA, the Cyprus Football Association refused to accept an offer of 50,000 Swiss francs to organise a campaign to combat racism from football, claiming that there is no problem of racism in Cypriot football.

 The aforesaid report to FRA also located a transfer of the problem into areas less monitored and even an escalation into a more violent form as there has been a rise in the numbers of violent incidents outside the football pitch; there are indications that extreme right groups may be using football clubs to recruit young members.

Groups affected/interested Migrants, Refugees, Africans/black people
Type (R/D) Anti-migrant/xenophobia, Afrophobia
Key socio-economic / Institutional Areas Sport, Anti-racism
External Url