Racist displays by Russian football fans double before World Cup - FARE
The number of racist displays by Russian football fans has doubled with most cases going unpunished as the country prepares to host the 2018 World Cup, anti-discrimination campaigners say.
Researchers from the Moscow-based SOVA Center and the UEFA-affiliated Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) logged 92 incidents of discriminatory displays and chants by Russian fans in and around stadiums during the 2014-15 season, against a total of 83 for the previous two seasons put together.
FARE executive director Piara Powar told The Associated Press: “[At the World Cup] there will be incidents inside stadiums, around stadiums. The question will be how frequently they occur, how serious they are.
“Given the closeness to the World Cup, we’re now talking about a situation where we are trying to minimise those incidents rather than eradicate them altogether.”
Black people were increasingly targeted by Russian fans last season. The report identified 10 cases of abuse of black people or players, compared to five in the previous two seasons. In July, Zenit St Petersburg striker Hulk said he faced racist abuse in “almost every game” in Russia.
However, just one incident of racist or far-right football violence was reported against 21 in the two previous seasons. Researchers linked the sharp fall to better police monitoring of hooligan groups, and an exodus of far-right fans volunteering to fight in the Ukraine conflict.
While Russian football authorities are increasingly punishing clubs for racist displays by their fans, many cases went unpunished, and sometimes resulted in black players being disciplined for responding to abuse with gestures.
Power said: “[The Russian Football Union (RFU)] is getting better at sanctioning clubs but there’s no apparent plan to work with fans to change the fan culture.”
Russian officials have repeatedly said they are tackling racism but argue that the problem is no worse than in many other countries, with FARE accusing the RFU of being “in denial” back in July.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko recently confirmed the country’s clubs will be banned from signing Turkish players as tensions between the two nations increased after Turkey shot down a Russian jet in November.
Mutko said in September: “Racism in football is a general problem and FIFA is fighting this all around the world. Russia is a FIFA member and we are also fighting this occurrence.”
FARE also accused Russian fan leader Alexander Shprygin of displaying racist and Nazi symbols, and said he should be removed from a government commission overseeing Moscow’s preparations for the World Cup.
Shprygin heads the state-backed All-Russian Supporters’ Union, known as the VOB in Russian, which works with government bodies as a combination of a pressure group for fans’ rights and the major support group for the Russia national team.
FARE, which helps to prosecute racism cases for UEFA, said Shprygin has been repeatedly photographed with symbols and gestures showing support for far-right and neo-Nazi causes. Power said: “[Shprygin] has no place in any organisation that is contributing to putting the World Cup on.”
Shprygin admitted operating social media pages that post pictures of far-right and nationalist symbols, but said they were intended to show how Russian football has changed from the days when such displays were more common.