Exclusive - ​Roma chief strategy officer Paul Rogers has spoken of the importance of anti-racism and its central place in the club’s values, as well as the importance of proactively challenging racism and the need for harsher punishments to stamp out racist behaviour.

Italian football has had a racism problem that has been particularly publicised in recent months, but the Premier League has also seen an alarming rise in similar issues.

“I don’t think anti-racism is central to our social strategy, I think it’s central to the values we hold dear as a football club,” Rogers said in an interview 90min.

“Social media is just the most immediate and wide-reaching platform for conveying the message that we operate a zero-tolerance policy on racism.

“I find it so depressing that in 2020, we are still talking about racism in football but unfortunately, I think it reflects a wider problem in society that appears to be becoming less, not more, tolerant of other people.”

In Rogers’ mind, Roma, who have established a fine reputation as a beacon of forward thinking and progressives, are not alone in the fight against racism, but it was important for the club to speak out.

“It’s not enough just to be not racist. We believe we must be proactively anti-racist and actually challenge racism, and racist language and imagery, in all forms,” he said.

“We can’t just wait for our fans to racially abuse a player or one of our own players to be racially abused by opposition fans, we have a responsibility to speak out now and push for change in Italian football. We need tougher punishments to really try and eradicate this evil from our game.

“Roma and Milan last year organised a private summit to bring clubs, the league and anti-racist organisations together to discuss the issue and from that, we jointly drafted the statement of intent about tackling racism that every club in Serie A agreed to sign and distribute to supporters.”

With football merely reflecting a wider societal issue, Rogers also lamented the messages being spread by some politicians and media figures.

“We have so much work to do because at the same time as many football clubs are promoting inclusivity and celebrating diversity, some politicians and certain sections of the media are pushing a very different message – one of division, fear and resentment of foreigners, refugees and other religions,” he commented.

“I think over the years, the Premier League has probably taken racism more seriously than Serie A but even English football still has issues with racism and now we are also seeing some terrible racism on social media, where it’s much easier for people to hide behind anonymous accounts.”

It is not just in the fight against racism that Roma are leader in world football. The club takes social responsibility incredibly serious and launched the Missing Child campaign in June 2019. Since then, as many as six missing people have been found.

Describing it as an ‘antidote’ to the world’s toxicity, Rogers said, “At Roma, we created something which transcended team rivalry and put missing children at the forefront of our campaign.

“The reaction we saw from fans of all clubs, not just Roma fans, was amazing and regardless of the team they supported, fans shared the appeals in the hope that the children could be found.”

There is more at stake than football for Roma and that is clear with the ‘Football Cares’ initiatives, which was set up in 2015 and aims to bring cooperation between clubs for good to a global level.

“With ‘Football Cares’ we brought together over 15 clubs including Inter, Fiorentina, Sampdoria, West Ham, Aston Villa, Orlando City and LA Galaxy and ended up raising over €600,000 for the Red Cross, International Rescue Committee, UN Refugee Agency and Save The Children,” Rogers said.

“We now believe that with the issue of missing children, we have an even better chance of bringing the football world together – just for one day – to use the platforms and the incredible reach and audience we all have to do something special.”

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