In recent days there has been a lot of controversy after a BBC documentary reported the level of racism in football in Poland and Ukraine, who are hosting the EURO2012 football championship this month.
Racism and anti-semitism in Poland and Ukraine have been a problem for many years. The documentary showed the extent of this problem in many stadiums. However, it is not the case in Poland that racism exits in all stadiums and by all fans. I know for example, that the journalists making the documentary visited the stadium of Warsaw's second club Polonia Warszawa and found no examples of racism. They chose to leave this out of the film however, probably due to the fact that it was not newsworthy.
One of the problems I have with films like this is that it shows Eastern Europe as being a backwater where racism is rife, compared to the civilised West which is more advanced. Now, it is true that in stadiums in Britain for example you would be unlikely to hear racist chants nowadays, which is completely different to when I was growing up when I remember commonly hearing racist chants. This does not mean that racism no longer exists amongst football fans in England. The fact that one of the most active far right groups in England at the moment - the English Defence League - is connected to organised football hooligans shows this.
There is nevertheless a particular problem in countries such as Ukraine and Poland and hopefully the policy of zero-tolerance will be enforced during the tournament and beyond. Anti-racist campaigners have long been campaigning against racism in football here and have organised a number of events to encourage diversity and tolerance at EURO2012.
Below I reproduce an article that has been published in the Guardian this week by Remi Adekoya, a Nigerian born journalist living and working in Poland:
As European nations gear up for Euro 2012, the spotlight is turning to one of the host nations and its attitudes to foreigners. England winger Theo Walcott's brother has tweeted that he and his father won't be travelling to the tournament, due to fears over racist abuse. Earlier this month, the BBC ran a long report on racism in Polish football and, according to the Daily Mail, the Foreign Office has warned England fans to "expect racist attacks in Poland and Ukraine". Read more......