Fare seminar looks at the role of the far-right in European football

An academic seminar organised by the Fare network will take place in Amsterdam this Friday and Saturday (27 and 28 May) with a key question in mind, ‘Is there a new far-right presence in European football?’.

The seminar, to be hosted by Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, will gather academics and activists to map the organised far-right presence across Europe and look at strategies to counter acts of hate. More than 20 academics, journalists, activists and practitioners will debate whether football really is a catalysing space and staging ground for right-wing ideologies or whether plurality of thought is more defining.

Participants will present papers focusing on the links between organised far-right groups in football and wider political movements from France to the Balkans, looking at emerging trends and ways to counter them.

The presence of organised far-right groups at stadiums in Europe has gained increased visibility with the recent economic crisis and the refugee situation. The seminar will look at some of the reactions from the terraces including examples of solidarity as well as large-scale xenophobic and Islamophobic campaigns.

This re-emergence of the political far-right seems to have been going hand-in-hand with attempts at an open ideological mobilisation of football supporters, through movements like ‘Hogesa’ or ‘Pegida’ in Germany, the ‘English Defence League’ and its off-shoots in the UK, or movements rooted within more easily recognised nationalist frameworks in Russia, Poland or the Ukraine. It seems that European football offers considerable spaces for social mobilisation and the dissemination of ideological demagoguery.

Piara Powar of the Fare network commented, “Continuing economic uncertainty had already fed far-right street movements, the refugee crisis has provoked even stronger reactions from some European football fans. We know from our monitoring inside stadiums that expressions of Islamophobia and general xenophobia, as well as hatred and violence towards refugees and migrant communities become in some states a common sight again in stadiums.

“On the other hand the refugee crisis has also triggered numerous responses and symbolic acts of solidarity, with actors within the field of football (clubs, players, fan groups and others) starting initiatives to support refugees practically and to support their political acceptance in Europe. We want to know more about the extent of extremist political movements and the types of interventions that can counter hatred and bring about unity.”

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