EURO 2008: Observers record racism and homophobia but welcome greater vigilance27 June 2008

The Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network today presents a report into incidents of racism and discrimination at UEFA EURO 2008™. The network reports that overall the tournament has passed with isolated incidents given the numbers of supporters attending, but notes “a number of issues that are a cause for concern”.

FARE has had monitors from twelve nationalities inside stadiums at each of the 30 games, in fan zones and in streets nearby to stadiums, tasked with reporting back on abuse and harassment arising from racism and other forms of discriminatory behaviour.

The FARE observers have recorded incidents including examples of racism, far-right activity, extreme nationalism, and homophobia. All reports are being passed to governing body UEFA and EURO 2008 SA where the UEFA control and disciplinary body will investigate the incidents. A list of illustrative incidents is attached.

In part the incidents reflect greater vigilance with increased levels of monitoring and more visible messages such as the Unite Against Racism programme, which has included a FARE training guide for staff working at stadiums on how to identify and deal with racism and racist symbols.

Kurt Wachter from Austrian FARE partner FairPlay-vidc said,As the NGO network concerned about the potential levels of racism and discrimination at the UEFA EURO 2008 championship we have seen that the majority of fans have had a positive experience.

However our observers have first hand evidence of enough incidents to know that the problem has far from disappeared.

There are a number of issues that cause concern, such as the continuing presence of far-right symbols at games and around stadiums. It’s also disappointing to see the levels of homophobia in mainstream fan culture.

It is a shame, for example, that thousands of members of the Oranje army of Holland have been singing homophobic songs directed at Luca Toni, and that some Croatian, Italian, Spanish, Russian and German fans have used gestures, symbols and chants to associate their support to the far-right.

The challenges for FARE remain clear as the work continues beyond the Euros.