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SBD Global/June 11, 2012/International Football

UEFA To Take Action Against Russia Over Fan Racism

Czech Republic's Theodor Gebre Selassie has been the target of fans' racist chants.
UEFA have "opened disciplinary proceedings" against 2018 World Cup host Russia over the behaviour of their fans during Friday's Euro 2012 victory over Czech Republic, according to the SUNDAY TIMES. Anti-racism campaigners claimed Czech defender Theodor Gebre Selassie "was the victim of monkey chants" during the game in Wroclaw. Fans were also caught on camera "attacking stewards in a walkway" at the Municipal Stadium. The Czech's only black player said he "noticed" the chanting but downplayed the seriousness of the abuse. He said the incident was nothing "extreme." A statement on the Russian FA website read: "We appeal to all fans who are in Poland. Remember that you represent your country. Respect yourself, your home and your team." It was the second time in as many days black players were "subjected to monkey chants" in Poland after members of the Holland squad were racially abused during a training session in Krakow (SUNDAY TIMES, 6/10). Joe Bernstein reported that a large group of fans "were caught on camera attacking stewards" in a walkway in a stadium in Krakow. Four members of the stadium staff "were taken to the hospital and released" (DAILY MAIL, 6/9). In London, Winter & Brascombe reported that a Football Against Racism In Europe official witnessed Russian fans targeting Selassie. FARE Exec Dir Piara Powar confirmed a section of fans "displaying a far-right Russian Empire flag during the game." The match was "further marred by clashes between Russian fans and stadium officials" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/9). Also in London, the AP noted that UEFA has "pledged a zero tolerance of discrimination" during the tournament (AP, 6/11). David Hills reported UEFA said that they would hold "an immediate investigation." UEFA is already "under pressure over their slow response to the racist abuse aimed at Holland's players during a training session in Krakow" on Wednesday (London GUARDIAN, 6/9). Also in London, Paul Hayward wrote "there was a sense by the time Saturday's games kicked off of a tournament landing like a spaceship on countries where football grounds are often a stage for extremism and xenophobia. Political tensions also bubble" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/9). Meanwhile, Barney Ronay wrote that "perhaps, just perhaps, it's all going to be OK." A five-year buildup marred by economic, political and social woes, the tournament entered its delivery stage "already braced in trauma position." But the atmosphere inside and beyond Wroclaw's Municipal Stadium during Russia's 4-1 win over the Czech Republic on opening night "suggested a tournament capable of gathering a reassuringly straightforward sense of momentum." The collateral damage "was limited" (London GUARDIAN, 6/9).

UEFA CONCERN: In N.Y., Rob Hughes wrote that UEFA President Michel Platini is "concerned that UEFA has taken the soccer festival to two developing, formerly communist nations, while Europe battles economic problems in seemingly every corner." Hopefully, "a million tourists who have never traveled to Poland or Ukraine will see enough to make them want to visit again." However, the fear is that even if new infrastructure is ready, "old and intolerant attitudes toward race may persist." Platini said, "Of 70,000 people in the stadium, we cannot stand outside saying: 'You're racist; you can't come in. You're not racist, so you can'" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/10).

SPONSORS WEARY: BRAND REPUBLIC's John Reynolds reported that sponsors of Euro 2012 are "on red alert" as they seek to avoid any association of their brands with reported cases of racism in the Ukraine during the tournament." BrandRapport Dir Sports Marketing Nigel Currie said, "This is obviously a concern for brands. It goes without saying they don't want any sort of controversy or nastiness, or anything that detracts from the game." There is no indication that UEFA sponsors are pulling back on activity because of the threat. However, there "is a sense" that the tournament has been overshadowed by the Olympics and the Queen's Jubilee, which has meant "brands have found it difficult to get standout" (BRAND REPUBLIC.com, 6/8).

UKRAINE REGRET: The AFP reported that Ukraine's ambassador to London criticised a decision by British ministers not to attend group stage games of the tournament because of concerns about "selective justice." Volodymyr Khandogiy told BBC Radio ahead of the tournament opener, "As far as that being a reason for not attending, this is something I don't understand since I believe that sport and politics, they don't mix" (AFP, 6/9). The SUNDAY TIMES reported that "no British government ministers will be attending England’s Group D games in Donetsk and Kiev amid anger over the treatment of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko." Other countries, such as Germany and France, have announced that senior politicians "would boycott games played in Ukraine unless the human rights situation under President Viktor Yanukovych improved" (SUNDAY TIMES, 6/10).
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