Sport and racism

The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Mutuma Ruteere, has expressed his concern at the presence of extremist Fascist groups at sporting events, displaying neo-Nazi banners and chants and showing blatant racial discrimination and calls on states to do more. But what to do, and how effective have past initiatives been?

Mutuma Ruteere, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, has declared in a report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva that "The presence of extremist groups, including neo-Nazi and skinhead groups, in sporting events is a matter of serious concern... Neo-Nazi symbols, slogans and banners displayed during football matches and racist chants against players or supporters of African origin should not be tolerated."

Mutuma Ruteere referred to several incidents during the EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine in which racist acts were registered among certain sections of the crowd. For the UN Special Rapporteur, the answer lies in States taking up the fight, punishing those guilty of racist manifestations, providing the victims with effective access to remedies, promoting cultural diversity and taking preventive measures to avoid racist incidents at sports gatherings in future.

"I call upon States to intensify the fight against racism in sport and to strengthen the role of sports in promoting cultural diversity. In particular, in light of the upcoming Olympics it is crucial that further preventive measures be taken to avoid racist incidents during this event which is going to reach out to all regions of the world," stated Mr. Ruteere in his report.

Partially to blame is also incendiary rhetoric from political parties, he claims, which make vulnerable groups scapegoats for the rise in unemployment, expressing his concern that traditional political parties in some countries have taken a clearly xenophobic, nationalistic and racist stance to policy management.

What to do?

If after some fifty years crowds continue to stand on football terraces bawling racist slogans, then it appears that the policies to date have not worked. However, it should be pointed out that the main message coming loud and clear from the EURO 2012 was from the slogan "Respect" and that 99.9% of the fans were simply enjoying themselves, singing national football songs but not making racist chants.

Education is maybe the key. Biodiversity is a scientific and economic necessity and it is a fact that the more diversified the genetic pool, the less likely it is that the individual will suffer from congenital diseases. Perhaps these racists would like to procreate with cousins for generations and then see the result down the line.

Many years ago I infuriated a racist group connected to a certain soccer club by videoing them making monkey chants at a black player of an opposing team, then getting a friend of mine with a studio to splice the video and show it playing beside a troop of chimpanzees behaving in a similar manner. The caption was "Spot the difference, if any".

The type of individual who wastes his money going to a soccer match in the first place, getting Fascist symbols tattooed to his body, bellowing racist diatribes and then behaving like an ape says it all. Surely any insult hurled by one of these demented simpletons would be an honour to the intended party?

For anyone interested, I give full rights to use my video/chimpanzee idea for free. It is simple and how true it is. Oh and someone had better tell them that within a few years their team will be full of naturalised Brazilians anyway, so they had better get used to the idea or else leave the sport. Suppose they infested a badminton court? Might liven things up...

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey