I’m a bit of a rarity in the office here, I love my sport. Can’t get enough of it. So when the world of human rights and sport collide I’m on it.
So tonight’s Panorama programme Stadiums of Hate is a complete must see for me. In it the BBC have toured the various stadia hosting this summer’s Euro 2012 football championships in Poland and Ukraine and the picture is very bleak.
The show comes on the back of two briefings from Amnesty International UK: One on Ukraine at the end of last month, and another released this morning looking at the situation in Poland. Both highlight a huge problem of racism and policing in the countries.
We have already issued a press release highlighting the problem, and this morning Amnesty International UK’s Director Kate Allen was on local radio also talking about the issue, and tonight Amnesty’s Ukraine campaigner Max Tucker will be on News at 10 on the same subject.
In between, Stadiums of Hate will show various racist chanting and one incident involving a fan of Indian origin at a game in Ukraine. He was aware of the problems of racism in the ground and had chosen to sit the so-called family enclosure for extra safety. It was to prove to be no refuge – he was beaten up by his fellow supporters.
The images shocked former England captain Sol Campbell so much that when he saw them he offered this simple advice to potential black and ethnic minority England fans looking at travelling to the tournament: “Stay at home, watch it on TV. Don't even risk it… because you could end up coming back in a coffin.” Sol’s comments were carried in The Mirror, The Express and The Independent this morning.
The fear of racial attack has already caused a stir in the England team with the families of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott both reportedly refusing to travel to the Championships.
For me, as a long-time football fan – AFC Wimbledon just in case you were asking – racism has absolutely no place in society let alone football. It is an utter disgrace that the various authorities in Ukraine and Poland have not stamped down on the problem with a ton of bricks. In the meantime, the fact that the sport’s European governing body, UEFA, continue to stand on the sidelines insisting it is up to the various regional authorities to act is simply not good enough.
The world of football needs to wake up from its slumber and insist on cutting racism out of our game once and for all.
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