Have UEFA have shot themselves in the foot by awarding the Euro championship to Poland and the Ukraine? UEFA’s governing body stated that awarding the tournament to the two nations was an opportunity to tackle social challenges like racism, giving both nations an opportunity to improve their image. Ex England Captain Sol Campbell has told the BBC’s Panorama that these games should not have been awarded to Poland and Ukraine because of entrenched racism and violence. Sol’s advice to fans is to “stay home, watch it on TV. Don’t even risk it.”
BBC’s Panorama spent a month filming at matches in both the joint host nations and witnessed Nazi salutes from the terraces, black players being taunted with monkey chants, rampant anti-Semitism and a vicious assault on a group of Asian students. Nick Lowles, an Anti-racism campaigner, stated that he believes UEFA shouldn’t have chosen either of these countries to host such a prestigious event. “I think that they were wrong, because what they should say is that ‘If you want this tournament, you sort your problems out. Until we see a massive improvement…you do not deserve these prestigious tournaments in your country.”
In a statement, UEFA said: “UEFA Euro 2012 brings the spotlight on the host countries and clearly creates an opportunity to address and confront such social issues. UEFA’s ‘zero tolerance’ approach to racism is still valid both on and off the pitch and ultimately the referee has the power to stop or abandon a match should racist incidents occur.”
UEFA said it was working with both Poland and Ukraine to ensure the safety of travelling teams and their fans. Two prominent England footballers, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have asked their families not to travel to watch them in the tournament, for fear of racist attacks.
British government advice for Euro 2012 fans of Afro-Caribbean or Asian descent is to take extra care in Ukraine because of racially motivated attacks.