The launch conference of the “Combating hate speech in sport” project


The first conference on “Combating Hate Speech in Sport” was held on 31 May 2022 in hybrid format (Strasbourg and online). ENGSO was represented by Linda Rombola, ENGSO EU Advisory Committee member and OPES project manager within the international department.


The launch conference “Combating Hate Speech in Sport” marked the official start of a joint initiative between the European Union and Council of Europe, and implemented by the Council of Europe’s Sport Division.


The aim of the project is to explore innovative approaches to tackle and address the hate speech in sport. Three main sessions formed the first (launch) conference:


  1. Understanding the state of play concerning hate speech in sport, in the 6 countries involved in the project;

  2. Exploring the current European policy framework;

  3. Sharing relevant practices and experiences from the sport field in order to understand the impact that hate speech has in the sport field and which initiatives have been taken to tackle the phenomenon.


Key takeaways


The phenomenon of hate speech is very complex and there is no one single way to tackle it. It represents an immense challenge which has a big impact in society, and requires a lot of work and responsibility to be addressed and tackled in a proper way.


Sport is one of the most important fields in which it is important to work on and promote Human Rights because sport is a place where hate speech occurs on regular basis. But sport can also be used as a diplomacy tool to bring people together and prevent hatred and abuse. Synergy and collaboration among different stakeholders is fundamental in order to establish efficient measures that will be help combat this phenomenon.


Among the policies presented at the conference, the COE’s legal and policy framework to combat hate speech, adopted in Turin in May, was specifically highlighted.


The framework also applies to sport sector in different aspects, in particular:

  • Support the victims;
  • Creating monitoring systems;
  • The role of education which is crucial in order to support anti discrimination attitude. Education should also address people working in the field who are responsible to tackle hate speech. In particular these people should be supported to be able to identify hate speech, be aware of the forms and ways to tackle it.

The topic of education was also underlined during the third session, in particular concerning


young people.


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The impact of hate speech


During the event several examples were presented to highlight the occurrence and impact that hate speech has in the sport field:

  • How hate speech affects mental health of athletes who are victims of it (some associations set up psychological support);
  • How hate speech is widespread and concerns both the online and offline world. Many examples have been shared to share how hate speech in sport has occurred and were referred to different aspects: race, gender, sexual orientation, religion;
  • How dangerous is online hate speech in particular if it occurs anonymously and cannot be tackled;
  • The link between hate speech and betting. Many examples of hate speech are made by people who bet and lose money and who decide to insult the players because of that (there will be a documentary which will be published soon, as announced by Nicolas Picquet).

Interesting topics on what we can do and what needs to be work on emerged during the conference:

  • The importance to define hate speech to be able to identify it;
  • The involvement of community leaders who are able to mobilize the people that love sport, and can contribute to prevention of this phenomenon by using a language which is inclusive;
  • The role of raising awareness campaigns on hate speech. Many interventions focused on the fact that when a phenomenon is not mentioned is not because the problem does not exist but that it is not well known and consequently not tackled. Campaigns could foresee the monitoring system and explore concrete measures involving government and role models. Campaigns should also show positive examples in order to counter narrative.
  • The importance to individuate sanctions and also to share the sanctions applied. Clubs and associations should for example adopt charters about the issue, also using as examples the ones already in place;
  • The role of the media which could also contribute to shed light on hate speech and on measures taken in order to act as a deterrent. Media could also support the message that behind the account there are human beings who are affected by the phenomenon.
  • In general, as indicated above, it is necessary to set the collaboration among different stakeholders to prevent and combat hate speech.

In conclusion to the event the Head of the Sport Division, EPAS Executive Secretary, Council of Europe, Sophie Kwasny ended the meeting by sharing three main words representing the launch:


– “impact”, referred to the power of sport, and how initiatives in and through sport can support societal change, – “willingness”, referred to the common commitment emerged to share and learn and – “together”, stressing the importance of alliance, to learn from the others and tackle together the phenomenon.


She also announced the next steps of the project: a mapping exercise in each country involved in the project, and the preparation of national factsheets. This work will support the upgrade of the national strategies or prepare new ones, including the national campaigns.