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'Stadiums of Hate': Legitimate and fair

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Tom Giles | 18:28 UK time, Friday, 8 June 2012

When an investigative current affairs programme like Panorama broadcasts a programme called Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate 11 days before a major football tournament and which reveals shocking images of racist abuse and violence in the host countries - controversy is to be expected.

Former England captain Sol Campbell's reaction to our footage showing Asian supporters being racially attacked inside a ground due to hold Euro 2012 matches was to urge fans and families to stay away "if you don't want to come back in a coffin". Again, a strong reaction - and at some volume - was expected.

The filmmakers accepted that there would be accusations of "scaremongering" or "sensationalism" from some quarters - particularly in Poland and Ukraine. We were ready and willing to defend this film, as we feel strongly that our reporting was both legitimate and fair.

This investigation was undertaken to assess whether Uefa, European football's governing body, was enforcing its own "zero tolerance" policy towards racism and anti-Semitism in the countries to which it had awarded such a prestigious tournament.

Both countries have had reasonably well-documented problems with racist and violent behaviour around domestic football matches, especially Poland, where a Uefa-funded report revealed that in 2010 there were 133 serious hate crimes inside Polish stadiums.

In Ukraine, a lack of official statistics for racist attacks made the situation harder to assess. But after filming at nine football matches in the two countries and recording violence and/or racism at all of them, and following other interviews, it was felt that there was enough evidence, within weeks of the tournament set to begin, to question whether Uefa's policy was not being properly enforced by the two countries' football associations.

We put our findings to both the Polish and Ukrainian FAs.

The Polish FA did not respond while the Ukrainians told us they couldn't help because they were having problems with their email and that our questions were too detailed for them to investigate.

We also put our findings to Uefa and to Michel Platini, its president. He declined to be interviewed but we received a general statement which we broadcast.

Panorama aired the film on 28 May because we felt that the images we had recorded in April and May would speak for themselves.

To date, as far as we are aware, there has been no public condemnation, criticism or expression of concern by any official in the host countries about the racism, racist violence and anti-Semitism we showed in our film. There has yet to be any expression of empathy for the experiences of either the black footballers or Asian fans featured in the programme.

Panorama has instead faced allegations of bias from both governments.

The programme made clear that we were investigating the behaviour of some football supporters and political hooligans - not the peoples of the countries themselves.

In the film we introduced our main Jewish interviewee who lives in Poland as someone who "believes most Poles happily accept other faiths, but that football hooligans are yet to catch up with wider Polish society".

The same contributor quoted above has since issued a statement saying he was "grossly misrepresented" and that we had "exaggerated" the scenes we had filmed. As you can read here Panorama rejects his accusations in the strongest possible terms. The contributor also said that our film had set back his ability to argue - as he did in the film - that anti-Semitism in football grounds in Poland "embarrasses the whole country". It's unclear how the film might do that when Poland is apparently talking widely about this issue for the first time in many years.

Officials in Poland have criticised Panorama for not speaking to "international security experts" instead of going to Sol Campbell, the black former senior England international, for his reactions. Mr Campbell was in turn labeled "insolent" by Ukraine's Foreign Minister.

Both governments have moved to reassure fans that they would all be safe for the tournament. In the case of Ukraine, this assurance was given without addressing what happened to the Asian fans we filmed being beaten up last month in one of Ukraine's own stadiums.

Until 6 June, Uefa had not commented on the issues raised in the programme.

England Fans, the official England Supporters' Club, travelling to Euro 2012 called the programme unhelpful and some Poles in the UK have expressed concern that they have been labelled as racist.

But amid all of these accusations against Panorama and the BBC, there is a real fear that the key issue has been missed - the overt and frightening racist and anti-Semitic abuse and violence of the kind broadcast by Panorama is both wrong and deeply upsetting to those on its receiving end.

That was the point of the programme. We set out to highlight a wrong.

Were the beatings that the students from India sustained in Ukraine's Metalist stadium somehow "exaggerated"?

Was the fact that they said the police were of "no use" as they walked off bruised and alone into the Ukrainian night somehow "made up"? Were the monkey chants hurled at the black players we filmed in Poland somehow "sensationalised"?

In Britain, we have been through a long and difficult process of trying to ensure that these practices would be stopped at football games. As someone who went to matches in the 1970s and 1980s and who has long-time membership of a Premiership club, I know that the sort of mass, racist chanting which happened back then is largely unthinkable now in English grounds. But we had to go through a lot of soul-searching and some concerted campaigning by the likes of "Kick it Out" before it did.

I am confident now that if any of the racist incidents we recorded in Poland or Ukraine had occurred here there would have been a massive national outcry. The authorities would have asked for our footage and would look to prosecute those responsible.

Uefa President Michel Platini waited 10 days before saying he was "shocked" by what he had heard of our film, but added that there was nothing he could be expected to do.

He said that despite widespread reporting of our findings on the eve of the tournament, he had not seen the disturbing scenes from our programme. Amid the furore, Uefa has not even asked us for a copy.

Despite this, I am hopeful that Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate will turn out to be positive for the game in the future - and will help contribute towards stamping out racism inside football, perhaps even at Euro 2012 itself - though the complaints of monkey chants against the Dutch squad training in Krakow aren't a great omen.

It's certainly much harder right now for Poland and Ukraine to look the other way when such things happen.

Tom Giles is the editor of Panorama


  • Comment number 1.

    Sky did the expose so much better.

  • Comment number 2.

    BBC seems somewhat sensationalistic over claims in Panorama documentary racism & anti-semitism are rampant in Ukraine & Poland. Documentary, Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate, which was screened last week, included the footage of Polish fans chanting anti-semitic slogans & giving Nazi salutes, also showed group of Asian fans being beaten & punched at an end-of-season league match in Ukraine.

  • Comment number 3.

    Former England defender. Sol Campbell urged fans to stay away, "watch it on TV". "Don't even risk going...because you could end up coming back in a coffin." BUT Jonathan Ornstein, Executive Director of Jewish Community Centre in Krakow said BBC was selectively reporting. He was "furious" at Panorama's exploitation of him as source; he claimed he & others were used to manipulate antisemitism.

  • Comment number 4.

    I watched the Panorama programme.

    The funny bit was the Police Chief saying "no they were only pointing".

    The most serious bit was the fans saying they were not Nazi but just agreed with Hitler about black and jewish people. They forgot to mention slavs, ie. themselves, who Hitler regarded as non-human. Possibly after going to a football match.

  • Comment number 5.

    Ornstein lashed out, claiming Panorama's reporter Chris Rogers had interviewed him for more than an hour; he told Rogers small number of racist & antisemitic fans in Poland "do not represent Polish society as a whole" & urged him to interview 2 Israeli footballers who played for Wisla Krak¢w. Rogers responded this line of inquiry 'didn't fit the story' - a perplexing reply.

  • Comment number 6.

    Ornstein further complained Chris Rogers disregarded anything positive, then aired only comments critical of Poland. However, BBC flatly rejected Ornstein's comments, claiming to have made it clear interview was being carried out in context of football-related racism & antisemitism in Poland. BBC denied refusing the offer to interview the Israeli players because it "did not fit the story".

  • Comment number 7.

    Like so many things these days, there appears to be what is, and what some wish it appears. From many 'sides'.
    'we feel strongly that our reporting was both legitimate and fair'
    Too often, the BBC has shown itself to be on one of those sides.
    And rushing to The Editors to say, again, 'we believe we got it about right' is hardly cutting it any more.

  • Comment number 8.

    The programme wholly inaccurate, and claimed fans where chanting anti Jew stuff even when the word Jew was not actually being used at all!

  • Comment number 9.

    Very interested to hear the Government are to shun the tournament, as they "have concerns that human rights are not being upheld in Ukraine".

    This from those who would repeal our own Human Rights Act, if only they could get a majority...

  • Comment number 10.

    In countries that still tolerate, even 'must have', an 'unemployment pool', we can expect more than individual misery

    'Political reaction' in the more homogenous

    'Sinking of minorities' in the more 'globalised'

    Victimisation of the poor, often by the poor

    The 'culture' of competition: 'Escape from Sobibor'

  • Comment number 11.

    So uk government shuns the tournament because it doesn't approve of the Ukrainian government... But the king of Bahrain brutally puts down democracy protests and he gets a multimillion pound arms deal and an invite for tea with the Queen. I'm sure if the Ukrainians grease the right UK palms our corrupt leaders will forget all about it.

  • Comment number 12.

    In countries that still tolerate, vote only for, the 'economical with truth', expect to be 'managed' with bluster

    Honesty doesn't pay, not in terms of bonuses & power

    'Economy' gets you power, a chat-show future, economy be damned

    Abetted subterfuge gets you into Eurozone, 'fingers-crossed guarantees' sold-on

    'Fingers-crossed' in vain, tsunami coming, from distant Sub-Prime

    All 'hooliganism'

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    It is alwasy difficult when reporting on alleged 'racism' to distinguish between bad behaviour which is motivated by different ethnicities, and that which has other motivations. Ultimately, does it matter? Hoodlums need to learn to behave themselves and not to brawl or even shout abuse at others who have also come to watch a footie match. Doesn't matter WHY they are misbehaving.

  • Comment number 16.

    "Legitimate & fair", to name flags?

    Panorama relayed "images of racist abuse & violence", reported Sol Campbell for "fans and families", on fear "back in a coffin"

    @13, images & fears related to wider malaise, beyond sporadic: horrors past & on-going, under many flags

    Observing friction between exhortations & actions, dangerous game-plays

    Echoing social exclusion warning as @10

  • Comment number 17.

    The BBC Panorama about Poland and Ukraine recalled me the communist propaganda from Polish TV under the communist regime. Fully fabricated reality patched from the real pieces and spiced with some genuine lies.

    Another source from Poland reveals that BBC Panorama lied and keeps on lying:

  • Comment number 18.

    Panorama has opened our eyes wide to sporting discrimination and hate in Poland and Ukraine. In the 21st century, one would expect enlightenment and common-sense to have taken root with regard to tolerance and good race relations. Alas this has not taken place! How long will racism mar the spirit of competitive sport?

  • Comment number 19.

    The BBC has done a great service by researching and exposing this problem in Eastern Europe. The fact the Ukrainean and Polish authorities deny and trivialise the issue is unsurprising. It took decades for the US and UK authorities to face the truth of their own policies and attitudes of "race hate." Eastern Europe is at the stage of cultural development that the West was several decades ago.

  • Comment number 20.

    A lot had been said recently regarding issues of racism, whether on, or off the pitch in both Poland and Ukraine. However grateful I am to BBC for bringing up what's happening on some of the Polish and Ukrainian stadiums during league matches I cannot fail to notice the damage it caused for the image of both co-hosting countries in the eyes of many Brits.

  • Comment number 21.

    Only yesterday, on my way home, I heard one of the listeners of my favorite radio station, expressing their "disgust" with, not UEFA's decision to assign the Euros to Poland and Ukraine as countries yet to tackle the problem of racism(which in fact, in my home country Poland, is minute but it does exist), not PZPN (Polish FA) for not doing enough to eradicate this problem from league matches,

  • Comment number 22.

    ThePole @20

    Well said.

    If there is failure to promote democracy and full employment for all, then the highlighting of more visible or violent 'breakdowns' may stigmatise victim communities, and distract from the truth that 'hate-spectrum-disorder' is the responsibility of all, the inevitable fall-out from 'socialisation' without equality of respect for all

  • Comment number 23.

    but with the countries themselves! What took me by surprise was that none of the reporters hosting the show on air cared to correct or even comment on the listener's view, they simply carried on stating: "Oh yeah, I remember watching Panorama's documentary on that" !?

  • Comment number 24.

    Despite of BBC's statement that Panorama's documentary was not aimed at the Nations as a whole (published here only ?) , despite of the statement of Mr Jonathan Ornstein who expressed his deep disappointment with how BBC's selectivity on his over an hour long interview completely distorted the message he wanted to put across (again, Daily Mail's website only ?), the damage's been done!

  • Comment number 25.

    Obviously I'm grateful to many Brits who acknowledge that this problem concerns minorities in both countries, however the big part of British public who rely on the telly only (much like in Poland) is taking on board what was said in "Stadiums of hate" and that's where my grief lies.

  • Comment number 26.

    This mentions but does not address the criticism from the Polish government: why did Panorama not speak to "international security experts" instead of going to Sol Campbell? I think and answer suggests itself and it has little to do with good journalistic practice.

  • Comment number 27.

    Advising fans not to go because they might "come back in coffins" is a massive exaggeration and anyone who has been to Poland will recognise this. Why are the makers of Panorama expressing surprise at this?

    How is such a gross exaggeration useful?

  • Comment number 28.

    Poland does have problems in its stadiums but as Mr Jonathan Ornstein pointed out, what was presented was so distorted a useful opportunity to properly address the issue was missed.

  • Comment number 29.

    While I cannot speak about the situation in Ukraine, and clearly an official interviewed there was blind to the problems, this is hardly true of Poland. You state that *especially* Poland has problems, giving figures but in then in the very next paragraph you state Ukraine doesn't keep such statistics. So, on what basis are you making the comparison?

  • Comment number 30.

    The problem has been acknowledged in Poland.

    See this article from 2011, about a fan being prosecuted for propagating racist views in the local football club's fanzine.,Football-fan-in-dock-on-racism-charges

  • Comment number 31.

    As the article states, "Concern over racist abuse and hooliganism is running high in Poland owing to the country's impending co-hosting of the Euro 2012 tournament with Ukraine."

    The Polish PM, Donald Tusk has declared a war against the hooligans.
    Again, from 2011:

  • Comment number 32.

    Nevermind Poland, when will Britain deal with rasism spreading within its own boundries? Poland and Ukraine are homogeneous societies, whilst Britain was being multiculturally formed for centuries and still this problem exists! Very unprofessional and selective, tabloid-like reporting, much below BBC standarts.

  • Comment number 33.

    @dalpengi - the text does not say that: "*especially* Poland has problems", but that it's got these recorded, unlike Ukraine. Anything but this I agree with your views. Regards!

  • Comment number 34.

    @Naag - (quote) "Eastern Europe is at the stage of cultural development that the West was several decades ago."

    Naag, please, read some history of this region before posting such a nonsense! Ignorance might be offensive.

  • Comment number 35.

    Very good journalistic job of Economist. Shame on Panorama, and then shame on BBC for geting deeper and deeper in the mud, instead of apology.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    A slam piece by BBC on two poorer Slavic nations. They could have found much more frightening soccer fans in their own back yard and real nut jobs like Aryan Nation in U.S. British colonial tradition and smug superiority marches on with BBC racism against Poland and Ukraine.


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