Sol Campbell warns fans to stay away from Euro 2012


Chris Rogers witnessed racist violence at a match in Kharkiv, Ukraine

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Euro 2012 should not have been awarded to Poland and Ukraine because of entrenched racism and violence, Sol Campbell has told the BBC's Panorama.

The former England captain's advice to fans is to "stay home, watch it on TV... don't even risk it."

Uefa, European football's governing body, said awarding the tournament to the two nations was an opportunity to tackle social challenges like racism.

It said the tournament was a chance for both countries to improve their image.

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.

'Zero tolerance'

After watching the footage, Mr Campbell said he believes Uefa should not have chosen the countries as hosts of such a prestigious event in the first place.

"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.'"

Sol Campbell reacts to video of racist attacks in Euro 2012 host nations.

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 societal 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.

But despite these assurances the families of two England players, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, are reported to be staying away from Euro 2012 for fear of racist attacks.

Uefa said the scenes of racist abuse filmed by the BBC in the last month were at domestic matches and a matter for national football authorities.

But Mr Campbell had this advice for fans thinking of travelling to Euro 2012: "Stay at home, watch it on TV. Don't even risk it… because you could end up coming back in a coffin."

Racist attack
Supporters doing Nazi salute at a Ukrainian football stadium In Ukraine, Nazi salutes were directed at opposing fans by thousands of supporters

On 14 April at the Metalist stadium in Kharkiv in Ukraine - one of the host cities for Euro 2012 - massed ranks of as many as 2,000 fans in the terraces for a match between two of Ukraine's biggest teams gave the Nazi salute to their team.

Some fans at the match told the BBC that they were saying "Sieg Heil" because Hitler hated "Jews and blacks" and that is how they support their team.

But local police chief Colonel Volodymyr Kovrygin denied that it was a Nazi-inspired salute, saying the fans were "pointing in the direction of opponents as it were, the fans, so it looked like they were pointing with the right hand to the fans, kind of attracting attention to themselves."

At a match two weeks later, scuffles broke out between rival fans and police arrived to calm things down. But they escalated again as Metalist fans began to attack a small group of their own supporters.

They were Indian students studying in Ukraine. They had sat in the family area of the stadium thinking it would be safe.

Panorama: Find out more

BBC Panorama logo
  • Chris Rogers presents Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate
  • BBC One, Monday, 28 May at 20:30 BST

In the stadium's medical room afterwards, one of the injured students said: "We were supporting the home team. It's horrifying."

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.

Panorama also filmed matches in fellow host-nation Poland, recording a chorus of anti-Semitic chanting and witnessing black football players enduring monkey chants from the terraces.

Nick Lowles from the UK-based anti-racist monitoring group Hope Not Hate was also in Poland monitoring incidents of racism.

He said that based on what he has seen, he was concerned for non-white fans travelling to support England at Euro 2012.

"Increasingly the positive thing about English football are the number of black and Asian fans that have been travelling and supporting England. I am concerned that they will be targeted by racists and fascists and anti-Semites in Poland and in Ukraine."

In Poland, Jonathan Ornstein of the Jewish Cultural Centre, said football hooligans in the country are stuck in the past.

"The stuff going on at the football stadiums is atrocious and it's embarrassing and I think it embarrasses the whole country. I think that most Poles would agree with that," he said.

Panorama's Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate, BBC One, Monday, 28 May at 20:30 BST and then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    I agree with many comments stating that racism exists in all countries...but the massive difference is that countries such as the UK are very visibly working hard to try and stamp it out, while countries such as Poland and the Ukraine do little or nothing...they even deny they have a problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Ross Kemp made a documentary for Sky TV years ago, and to be honest, I'd be afraid for people attending the tournament. These hooligans are not like other football supporters. Police chief Kovrygin saying it was "people pointing in the direction of the opponents" is just wiping the problem under the carpet. If they don't agree this is a real Nazi salute, then I fear for everyone attending games.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    Just watched some footy fans being pummelled for no other reason than the colour of their skin. And other fans making monkey noises and nazi salutes while the police watch on. I have travelled fairly extensvely watching England but there is no way I would go to the Euro's. Neither EUFA nor FIFA give a hoot as long as they make money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    look everyone, if you have never been there or know anyone from that part of the world, you are basing your comments on what the papers tell you, or the gov (who dont know this country, let alone others), you are as ignorant as anyone in the world!

    all those that are commenting, please state if you have been there, before you describe a place you couldnt find on a map....

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    If that happened in this country to even one person from those countries they would be claiming compensation for racism & violence against them. We already have their criminals over here causing mayhem, but if caught they know they will only be put in a luxury prison at our expense as they know this country is soft on crime, that if the police bother to investigate at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    To be honest I'm a bit surprised at Campbell. So yhea, why dont we all stay at home, become shrinking violets and let THEM win. Why dont we all avoid going anywhere for fear of an ignorant attack? Why dont we just stop living, then we cant be got at by those nasty racists.

    Campbell has been shown one piece of video and drawn a hefty headline grabbing conclusion. What other research has he done?

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    Why are these backward countries in the EU let alone hosting Euro 2012?
    By letting these countries into the EU we only allow for their views to be spread and to gain more influence."

    Ukraine is not a member of the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    Racism is as rife in football now as it's ever been.
    It never truly went away.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    it may well be the case that there is racism everywhere - including the UK - but it's the official response to this that is most embarrassing, and wouldn't happen here in a million years. 'they were pointing in the direction of the other fans'?! atrocious. and uefa are the worst - expect truly enormous fines of about £10 to be dished out. a shambles and an embarrassment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    I've been living in Warsaw for the last 3 months and have yet to see the alleged racism that is being talked about. There are many black, oriental and especially Indian people already living here (though admittedly not as many as in London for example). I feel Poland is being a little harshly treated here though am sure it's not entirely blameless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    Not all Poles and Ukrainians are racist but racism is a far bigger issue there than most other western countries.
    We should not to tar whole countries with the same brush as a minority of people, granted a larger minority than many countries but still a minority.
    If you are of an ethnic back ground, stay in large groups with your friends or as Sol says, don't go. There is a significant risk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    This sort of xenophobia and racism described in the article is (sadly) a part of football club supporters' subculture in every country.

    But the hooliganism of club supporters doesn't translate into behaviour of supporters of national teams. While the former are often far right hooligans, the latter are usually normal people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    Why are these backward countries in the EU let alone hosting Euro 2012?
    By letting these countries into the EU we only allow for their views to be spread and to gain more influence.

    One is left to worry about the state of racism in the UK when you hear about high levels of immigration from these countries. I hope that their hate doesn't start to breed in this country too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    This is just English media hyping up nothing because they're still sore about losing the World Cup bid.

  • Comment number 180.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    It would create a better impression and show a lack of sour grapes to win the competition and make an after tournament comment about the racism and winning in spite of it, preferably with the cup so it can't be ignored.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    What is the point in Racism? Has it ever done anything positive? No, it just causes misery and upset. It's the racists that should be forced to stay at home, not the football lovers

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    thugs every where should be charged with racism and assault if there County does not control these thugs then it must be banned from hosting sporting events thuggery is thuggery it must be banned

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    I hope, for everyones sake, the competition goes without a hitch. And I have the feeling that it probably will.
    Given the heavy policing and pressure the governments will be under I think they'll make sure that there's no trouble.
    I'm not wearing rose tinted glasses, it's just my gut feeling.
    Alternatively, offer to give said muppet a toast and bore him to death with a John Major like speech.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    From BBC side:
    "A BBC investigation has found more than eighty thousand racist incidents were recorded in schools in England, Wales and Scotland over the last four years".
    So England has racism problem at school. Schoolchildren has to change schools.


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