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FIFPro, the World Players' Union, said today professional footballers who are victims of racial abuse and other forms of discrimination require greater protection from referees and competition organisers.

In Rome, for the two-day 'Respect Diversity' conference (September 10-11), organised jointly by FIFPro, UEFA (European football's governing body) and the FARE network, FIFPro highlighted the need to build trust in reporting mechanisms, such as UEFA's three-step protocol, to ensure the players feel confident in how the system supports them.

Frederique Winia, FIFPro's Director of International Relations who oversees the area of Corporate Social Responsibility, said: "A player like any other employee is entitled to feel safe, respected and a sense of dignity in his or her place of employment."

"FIFPro is committed to working with its partners to ensure ample consideration is given to effective measures to deal with this plague on society. A key component is that the player's right to be heard and take action must be protected at all times."

Tony Higgins, Vice President of FIFPro Division Europe, added: "Who is it that often bears the brunt of discriminatory behavior? The players. They are easy targets and there are far too many instances in football worldwide to support this fact."

"Discrimination will not be tolerated by the players who have every right to take a stand for what they believe in."

"We call on football authorities, federations and leagues to enforce the three-step protocol introduced by UEFA as a minimum standard within their own countries; otherwise we may see more cases of players deciding to leave the pitch because of discriminatory abuse ," Higgins concluded.

The UEFA three-step protocol empowers the match referee to stop the match and ask for a public address system announcement to be made urging spectators to stop such racist conduct and warn that the match will be suspended and subsequently abandoned should such unacceptable behaviour continue.

FIFPro insists that match referees under instruction from football's governing bodies are responsible in the application and enforcement of these measures. It is also clear that players have the right to judge any given situation if they have reason to believe the protocol in place has failed to protect them.