World Cup hosts claim no racist incidents took place last season
by Kadeem Simmonds
KICK It Out slammed Russian football authorities yesterday for burying their heads in the sand, after a report said that the Russian Football Union (RFU) did not detect a single incident of racism last season.
The report by European anti-discrimination group Fare and Russia-based Sova said that there were 89 racist and far-right incidents at Russian games in the 2016-17 season, slightly below the two previous seasons.
But the RFU’s disciplinary committee said it didn’t detect a single racist incident in any of the top three divisions.
The report comes ahead of the Confederations Cup, which starts tomorrow, and a year ahead of the World Cup and Kick It Out called on the RFU to ensure that players and fans will be safe while in Russia.
Kick It Out told the Star: “The latest report by Fare and Sova is a useful indication of seeing where things are in Russia, with the World Cup 12 months away and on the eve of the Confederations Cup.
“Although there’s been a small reduction in incidents compared to previous seasons, it is troubling that the Russian Football Union’s disciplinary committee did not detect a single incident in 2016/17.
“That disparity is of great concern and it just reiterates that efforts needs to be intensified to ensure forthcoming tournaments are not blighted by discrimination.
“The Russian authorities cannot bury their heads in the sand. They need to be leading on activities and clear anti-discrimination messages, as well as ensuring that players and supporters feel safe travelling to their country.”
In one case, an African player complained of racist abuse by an opponent during a Russian Premier League game.
In another case, a hardline fan group segregated part of a stadium for people of “Slavic appearance,” the report alleges. Fans of Russian champion Spartak Moscow flew anti-semitic banners.
“The Russian football authorities and the government authorities have realised ... the way both of these competitions will be tarnished by the fear of racism occurring and they’ve taken some quite strong measures,” Fare’s executive director Piara Powar said. “There still remains the danger of some isolated incidents taking place.”
Fare says Russia has made some progress, and that it didn’t observe monkey chants or openly nazi flags in any top-flight games this season. However, it warns far-right fans instead fly banners with concealed messages such as runes and number codes used by nazi and ultranationalist groups.
The RFU punished two clubs in the 2015-16 season for such banners, but didn’t pursue any such cases this season — something which Powar says indicates it may be “turning a blind eye.”