With the slogan "#SportsSpreadsRespect", delegations from six countries (Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Montenegro, Greece), representatives of the Council of Europe and experts, sent the message against hate speech in sports , at the two-day workshop organized by General Secretariat A on 21 and 22/6 and hosted at SEF, within the framework of the European program "Combating Hate Speech in Sport".
During the event, the strategic goals of the program were discussed, as well as the promotional actions that must be followed to deal with hate speech in the field of sports as well, while the decisive role of athletes in this effort was highlighted. Present, with a catalytic contribution, the athletes-ambassadors of the program Ioannis Mellisanidis, Panos Triantafillou Evina Maltsi, Aauri Laura Bokesa Abia who shared their personal experiences and submitted proposals for dealing with it.

The work of the conference was opened by gen. Secretary of Sports G. Mavrotas and together with the person in charge of the Greek participation in the program, Anastasia Goufa, welcomed the head of the Sports Directorate of the Council of Europe, Sophie Kwasny, the person in charge of the Council of Europe program, Gabriela Matei, the representatives of the partners- countries in the program and the specialist experts. In his introductory statement, Mr. Mavrotas stated, among other things:
"The request in this program, which was started about a year ago by the Council of Europe and the E.U. is to deal with the phenomenon of hate speech in sports, a phenomenon that is the fertilizer for all forms of violence. And at the same time, let's use sports itself to deal with hate speech throughout society.

Tackling hate speech will be achieved through teamwork as to fight it requires a series of synergies of all the involved bodies, i.e. athletes, Federations, Mass Media, Sports Bodies, Unions, State, Prosecutorial Authorities, etc.
We must all work together to highlight the power that Sports has and its influence on young people and society, in order to reverse the situation that has developed.

I believe that our best ambassadors in this ambitious plan are athletes, who can convey the messages better than anyone else and be at the center of the campaign against hate speech with the aim of spreading it to ever wider audiences."

The Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics, Ioannis Melissanidis, described the hate speech he faced 23 years ago at the Sydney Olympics from a section of the press. "I felt on my skin what hate speech means! I was a new kid. I experienced a gratuitous character assassination while I had no way to defend myself! You see, back then we didn't have our own platforms on Social Media which now list thousands of followers and provide us with the possibility to project our own point of view as well". He characteristically mentioned that hate speech can lead to extreme situations and we must "...all of us, with all our strength, face this phenomenon. Sports has the power to change all this, and as such a tool we must use it."

The international basketball player moved on the same wavelength Evina Maltsis, saying characteristically: “Sports is a tool that can improve our lives if we manage it properly. I traveled and lived in other countries, I saw what it's like to not be welcomed, through sports I realized that we are all equal and have the same rights. I'm here because I believe in this idea and I want to help. In my role as a coach at Antetokoubros Academy, I try to promote the concepts of loving coexistence between children of different nationalities, to educate children to respect the different, to motivate children who live in less good conditions and may have reduced opportunities to develop socially and competitively".

The Paralympic Fencing Champion, Panos Triantafillou for his part, he referred to the catalytic role played by education. "It is important that the right foundations are laid and we as athletes will help to transmit the values ​​of sport and respect through various actions and also by visiting schools. Hate speech is not just verbal. For example when someone intentionally denies accessibility to people with disabilities, it is a form of exclusion."

Η Aauri Laura Bokesa Abia (Spanish 400m athlete with participation in Olympic Games, World and European championships) spoke about the great difficulties she encountered as due to her mother's origin (from a colony of Spain) and her color, she was not accepted as Spanish at first. She noted that sports and her presence in the national team helped her integrate into society more easily.
Afterwards, the representatives of the countries presented practices and examples, from their countries, to deal with hate speech in sports, followed by a discussion and exchange of views among the participants in order to arrive at the best practices for organizing the campaign to combat the phenomenon by setting specific context and schedule.

The representatives of the Greek organizations that were "present" on the second day of the two-day conference praised the work of the Council of Europe and the GA on this issue and expressed their willingness to jointly support the actions that will be taken to combat hate speech in sports.

In the context of their presence at the event, they reported with examples, experiences and incidents on issues related to hate speech, but also on the actions required to deal with them.

In the direction of the creation of a pan-European campaign to deal with hate speech, the exchange of opinions and ideas between the representatives of the Greek organizations among themselves, but also with those of the countries that participated in the event, was of particular interest. It was a common admission that education plays a key role in the effort, both inside and outside of sports.

The organizations that participated in the work of the two-day event were: the Ministry of Education & Religion, the Police (Sub-Directorate for Combating Violence in Sports Venues), the Sports Prosecutor, DEAB, Super League 1, Super League 2, ESAKE, Volleyball League, EOE, EEC, EOPE, OHE, EPE, SEO, ESOA, SEP, PSAT, Panhellenic Federation of Sports Coaches.

Source: General Secretariat of Sports, 23.6.2023