Sol Campbell warns fans to stay away from Euro 2012
- 28 May 2012
- From the section UK
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.
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.'"
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."
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.
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.