Will racism play a huge part in Poland & Ukraine during Euro 2012?



By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor 



Frenchman Michel Platini (pictured above) has been president of UEFA since August 2007 


UEFA president Michel Platini says the best way to tackle racism in football is for referees to stop a match whenever there is abuse.

A BBC Panorama programme highlighted incidents of racism at stadiums in Poland and Ukraine, who will co-host Euro 2012. Platini said: "Referees can finish the game. They have this power in case of racism. That is, I think, the best way to protect the game against racism. My reputation because there are racists in Poland and Ukraine- are you joking? You think I am responsible of the racists in the rest of Europe or in England or in France?  My responsibility is not to do nothing- and we have done a lot to change the rules, to change the regulations, to help 'You're Fair' and 'Never Again'. We help them, we do a lot for racism - but I am not responsible for society. The society is not so easy. You have some problems and we have to organise these Euros from the beginning with some problems because these two countries never welcome so big an event in the past. It was a big challenge for Poland, big challenge for Ukraine, a big challenge for UEFA- and we have done our best."

The Panorama programme showed fans making Nazi salutes on the terraces, black players being taunted with monkey chants and a vicious assault on a group of Asian students. Former England captain Sol Campbell advised fans not to travel, suggesting they would be risking their lives if they did so. Ukraine's Euro 2012 director Markian Lubkivsky said Campbell's remarks were "insolent". 21-year old former Inter Milan striker Balotelli was regularly the target of racist abuse when playing in Italy.

Platini dismissed suggestions that his own reputation would be tarnished if there was racial abuse at Euro 2012.  Asked about the footage shown in Panorama's documentary, he said: "We are shocked about racists but we are trying to do something; we have to fight against that. I feel bad. Of course I feel bad because I am not a racist."

Platini insists officials will book any player who walks off the pitch without permission- even if they are a victim of racial abuse. The clarification comes after Manchester City and Italy striker Mario Balotelli threatened to walk off the pitch if he believed he was a victim. The UEFA president added: "It's a yellow card. It's not a player- Mr Balotelli- who's in charge of refereeing. It's the referee who takes these decisions. So the referee has been given advice and he can stop the game if there are problems."

But Ukraine international Andriy Shevchenko said that racism is not a real problem in Ukraine and Poland saying that the country is very quiet and its people are very friendly. Theo Walcott's family have revealed they will not be travelling to the tournament because of their concerns about racism.

The 56-year-old also insisted the issue of racism is one that extends far beyond the two host nations of Euro 2012. Platini, who has been Uefa president since January 2007, said: "If you want to have a programme on racism you can go everywhere now because there is an increase in the nationalists in many, many countries. It is not just a fact only in Poland and Ukraine. You can go in France, United States, in England and you will find the problem of racism. You have more nationalists in many, many countries in east of Europe - that is true."

The UEFA president has previously criticised the host nations, describing Ukrainian hoteliers as "bandits" for the rising cost of accommodation and bemoaning the quality of pitches in Poland. The Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, has downplayed fears over racist attacks in Ukraine, saying hooligans were known to the authorities and security services "will be watching all the matches closely".

England are set to have their lowest travelling support at a tournament in years after thousands of Euro 2012 tickets were returned to UEFA. The Football Association was given around 7,500 tickets for the games against France and Ukraine, and 9,000 for the Sweden fixture.

Only 3,000 tickets were sold through England's official membership group for each of the group games. The unsold tickets have been sent back to Uefa and will go on general sale. The FA are hopeful that up to 10,000 England fans will choose to travel and purchase their own tickets independently. However, it is anticipated there will only be another 2,000 England fans at the France and Ukraine games and a further 3,000 against Sweden. It means England supporters will likely be outnumbered as travelling fans at a major tournament for the first time in years.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych has downplayed fears of racist attacks during the Euro 2012 football championships in the country.In an interview with the BBC, he said hooligans were known to the authorities and security services "will be watching all the matches closely".His comments follow a BBC documentary which uncovered widespread racism at Ukrainian football matches.The interview also touched on the case of ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.She has been jailed on charges of abuse of power. The case has caused an international outcry, with some observers arguing the trial was politically motivated.

Former Aston Villa and Chelsea defender Paul Elliott, an ambassador for the anti-racism group Kick it Out, wants Euro 2012 referees to stop matches if players are abused saying: "That's his job. He has a duty of care to those players. The referee has the power to stop the game, speak to the stadium announcer, to do everything possible until the situation is resolved."

UEFA says it will have people at every match of the tournament, monitoring to make sure there isn't any racist abuse inside or outside the stadiums. The monitors will file a report after every game and Uefa has the power to take disciplinary action against countries whose supporters misbehave.

Click here to listen to Sol Campbell's warning on racism at Euro 2012

Click here to watch the interview regarding racism with Michel Platini

Click here to watch news report about racism in Poland & Ukraine

Click here to listen to Ruud Gullit's thoughts on Dutch players racism incident


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