Fears that the 2018 World Cup in Russia will be marred by incidents of fan racism, homophobia and other prejudices are mounting after a new report on discrimination in Russian football that covers the 2017/18 season exposed relentless and deeply rooted antisocial cultures in the country’s fan base.
The new report by the Fare network and the Moscow-based SOVA Center highlights an increase in the number of discriminatory chants inside Russian stadiums, predominantly monkey chants and homophobia. The report says the 2017/18 data indicates “deeply rooted issues and a lack of educational and preventative efforts by Russian clubs”.
A Johannesburg based outfit ProBonoMatters said the report confirms what its been saying all along that FIFA has not done enough to fight discrimination from the game of football.
The report notes that although the number of total incidents are down for the third successive season, particularly displays of far- right banners inside stadiums, there is cause for concerns ahead of the 2018 World Cup.
In our view, says the report’s authors, the Russian authorities began to show serious commitment to resolving the issue too late. “Time that could have been spent on building a new model of relationships with fans and changing the culture has been missed.”
The report notes that there was notable a decline in the number of far-right banners displayed. It said credit must be given to the security operations at many clubs for being effective in stopping the banners from being brought into stadiums. “This applies in particular to banners featuring “Teivaz”, “Odal”, “Zig”, “Algiz” and “Yr” runes, these were all symbols used in Nazi Germany and are unambiguously associated with far-right ideology.
“We did notice that some banners were allowed into stadiums with runes partly covered with duct tape. It also appears that the media services of some clubs, especially at smaller outfits, have avoided focusing on supporter banners in their photographic reports. This suggests that in stadiums in which fans persist in raising them the clubs are increasingly refusing to give publicity to the banners.
And the report noted that there are still some examples of continuing disregard by some clubs. For example FC Chertanovo Moscow was fined for displaying a banner featuring runes and fans of the club were repeatedly witnessed displaying neo-Nazi symbols in the stands.
The report notes that the number of discriminatory chants increase considerably during the 2017/18 season. “These include monkey chants, neo-Nazi songs and anti-Caucasian chants as well as the use of homophobic slurs.
“We report 19 cases this season compared to 2 last season and 10 the season before. A particularly big case involved Spartak Moscow in which thousands of their fans were involved in a racist chant against the Brazilian-born Russia national team goalkeeper, Guilherme.”
The report says it noted a new rise in homophobia inside Russian stadiums. “We now see fans labeling opponents as ‘gay’ as a means of abuse more often than ever before”. This is a practice, says the report, that takes sustenance from state-led homophobia, but has been copied from leagues in western Europe.
The report adds that “We note that despite the attention of the media and efforts of the Russian Football Union, fans continue to direct monkey chants at black players regularly.”
Blaming the victim
The report says there is a strong trend where the Russian Football Union Disciplinary Committee punish players and coaches who react to being abused by racist chants while ignoring the perpetrators. “This practice amounts to a form of victim blaming and reflects an ignorance of the dynamics of racism. It is the wrong signal to send if one is serious about tackling the issue and leads to the victims of abuse feeling unprotected and isolated during matches.”
The report notes that physical hate crimes committed by Russian far-right fans remain a problem. “During the 2017/ 2018 season we noted an attack on a group of students from Iraq by fans in Orel and a fight between fans in Kirov and a mobilisation of anti-racists. A year earlier we also noted two similar acts of violence. It is clear to us that the levels of far-right violence and hate- motivated attacks will be higher than those reported.”
2018 World Cup
The report says there are reasons to hope that during the 2018 FIFA World Cup the authorities will not allow serious violent incidents involving football hooligans. “However, we do not have as much confidence in the prevention of non-violent racist incidents, despite the many well intentioned reassurances.”
Concern about the prevalence of racism and other discrimination in and around football prompted ProBonoMatters to establish an initiative to monitor and expose racism around FIFA activity in the run up to the 2018 World Cup in Russia and beyond. The initiative sets out to hold FIFA accountable to its promise of casting pout racism from the game of football.
You can access the full Fare/Sova report here: Discriminatory incidents in Russian football 2017 – 2018