Increased concerns over racism in Dutch Football18 February 2016

TheissueofracisminfootballhasreturnedtotheDutchheadlinesafterthreeincidentsinjustoveronemonthtime.Playersonthepitchaswellasfansaretargeted;mostlyinconnectiontoanopposingteam.ThesuddenexplosionoftelevisedincidentshasraisedconcernsovertheworseningatmosphereatandaroundfootballmatchesintheNetherlands.ThereseemstobeaseriousprobleminDutchfootball,yetastragicasitisitseemsthereisalsomomentumtotackletheissueandallowforasustainablesolution.

Filling the Sports Media Headlines
Football is the most popular sport in the Netherlands. Around 1,2 million Dutch people play football every weekend and ten thousands of people watch their team to play professional football whenever they can. The Dutch National team made it to the finals of the World Cup in 2010 and to the Semi-Finals in 2014 and PSV has reached the UEFA Champions League round of 16. Yet, recently, it is racism in Dutch Football that is filling the sports media headlines, even on the international stage.

Three Incidents
On Sunday 14 February –  shortly after the end of the FC Groningen v Ajax encounter – a fan of the home side was arrested for performing a Nazi salute and shouting racist words against an Ajax fan. The incident comes after Ajax midfielder Riechedly Bazoer was subjected to monkey chants (jungle sounds) by a section of ADO Den Haag fans on 17 January this year. Moreover, it follows an incident on 7 February when an Ajax fan was caught on camera lynching a black-skinned doll wearing a jersey with the name of Feyenoord goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer, generating minority organization Ninsee to speak out on the painful association between the act of lynching and the history of “black people”.

Stop passing the buck
According to John Olivieira, board member of Fare, “the focus in Dutch politics and media is on incidents mainly. In the last years, we also had a number of incidents in Dutch football, with anti-Semitic chants at FC Utrecht and monkey chants at De Dijk (Amsterdam) v. Fortuna Sittard. In a few weeks’ time, we will all pretend nothing has happened, that racism in football has disappeared since the 1980s and will wait for the next incident to happen. Supporters, Clubs, Football Associations and Government need to stop passing the buck and start taking concrete and courageous measures, including an unambiguous and achievable task division in cases of criminal offenses.”

Focus beyond incidents
According to Jacco van Sterkenburg, Assistant Professor at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, “Dutch society needs to focus not only on incidents, but on structural problems, causes and solutions. It is important to encourage diversity among all actors in Dutch professional football, including referees, management and supporters boards (and to implement the Amsterdam Pact on this matter), to let players be role models and to discuss with the sports media how (well-intended) stereotypes can contribute to this behavior and to develop counter-narratives as has been done by fans and clubs in Italy and the UK.”

Onderhuids
In October 2015, more than 200 local and national organizations, including amateur football clubs and professional football clubs such as NEC Nijmegen and ADO Den Haag and various political parties and municipalities, presented a list of 28 recommendations to the Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands in the context of the Onderhuids campaign. The Dutch government has now responded to this document in writing. A debate will take place in the Dutch Parliament on March 9. The debate will give the government the chance to push measures forward and symbolizes the momentum to engage with Supporters, Clubs, Football Associations and Civil Society on this particular matter.