ThenumberofracistdisplaysbyRussianfootballfanshasdoubledinthecountrywhichwillhostthe WorldCup in2018,withmostcasesgoingunpunished.
Researchers from the Moscow-based SOVA Center and Fare network logged 92 incidents of discriminatory displays and chants by Russian fans in and around stadiums in the 2014-15 season, against a total of 83 for the previous two seasons put together.
At the World Cup, “there will be incidents inside stadiums, around stadiums. The question will be how frequently they occur, how serious they are,” said Fare Executive Director Piara Powar.
“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, who is black, 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 rude gestures.
The Russian Football Union “is getting better at sanctioning clubs but there’s no apparent plan to work with fans to change the fan culture,” Powar added.
Russian officials repeatedly say they are tackling racism, but argue that the problem is no worse than in many other countries.
“Racism in football is a general problem and FIFA is fighting this all around the world,” Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said in September. “Russia is a FIFA member and we are also fighting this occurrence.”
The report from Fare and SOVA details discriminatory incidents last season in eight of the 11 host cities for the World Cup. In addition, there were cases in seven more towns and cities which will host training bases for teams during the tournament.
There were also cases of Russian fans causing trouble abroad, with Fare citing racist banners displayed by CSKA Moscow fans at a Champions League game in Rome and Russian fans with far-right symbols at the World Cup in Brazil.
The report also raises concerns that Russian fans with far-right links have gone to fight on both sides in the Ukraine conflict, something that co-author Nataliya Yudina, a Moscow-based researcher with the SOVA Center, considers dangerous.
“On fan forums, fans say that several especially aggressive radicals have gone to fight in Ukraine on the side of the self-declared republics,” Yudina explained. “That’s dangerous because they’ll come back here with the fighting experience that they’ve picked up, and with aggression.”
Yudina argues that Russia may succeed in hosting a safe World Cup for foreign fans and players simply by swamping the event with police, but failing to change attitudes in society, saying: “I worry that the World Cup itself could pass calmly, but that after it there may be incidents.”
The report does not include incidents this season, including a case in July when Ghanaian player Emmanuel Frimpong was banned for two games by the Russian Football Union after he gestured with a finger in response to apparent racist abuse.
In another case in August, CSKA Moscow fans abused supporters from Russia’s North Caucasus region throughout a league game, prompting the Anzhi Makhachkala club to call for a crackdown on “bigotry”.
From The Associated Press
Read the full report here.
Fare briefing on issues around racism, xenophobia and homophobia in Russian football.