Nick Lowles' blog

Guest Euro 2012 blog: A Fan-Friendly Euro 2012?

posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Monday, 4 June 2012, 08:55

During the Euro 2012 championships HOPE not hate will be opening up its blog to people who have interesting things to say and report, particularly from within Poland and the Ukraine. In the first such blog, Mark Perryman, of Philosophy Football and LondonEnglandFans, offers a different take on the BBC Panorama programme and calls for more balanced reporting.

A Fan-Friendly Euro 2012?

Over the past week or so the coverage of Euro 2012 hosts Ukraine and Poland has been overwhelmingly negative. Much of the reporting has been sensationalist and my view as an active travelling England fan is that this is seriously unhelpful.

First some background. Ahead of World Cup 98, Euro 2000, World Cup 2002, Euro 2004 and World Cup 2006 there was an entirely different build-up. This was almost entirely concerned with the risk our, England, fans posed to the tournament in terms of hooliganism. Much of this was overstated, the actions of a minority allowed to paint a picture of the majority.

However at World Cup 2002, Euro 204 and World Cup 2006 there was virtually no trouble involving England fans. Instead we were widely reported as joining in the party, travelling in huge numbers and singled out for praise because of the fan-friendly initiatives we were involved in.

Ahead of World Cup 2010 in South Africa the agenda suddenly changed. The build-up became all about the risks we faced. Bloodcurdling tales of the likelihood of robbery, carjacking and worse. This was despite South Africa having recently hosted the Rugby and Cricket World Cups with next to no incidents of this sort , nor for the 35,000 who followed the 2009 British Lions tour to South Africa either.

The reality? After an extremely well-policed tournament virtually no incidents of this sort took place, in fact South Africa had the lowest crime rate of any World Cup and fans, despite England’s pitiful performance on the pitch, came home with tales of a trip of a lifetime. All the horror predictions had been proved to be grossly incorrect.

Now we face something similar with the Ukraine. Not a single report I’ve read has mentioned England played in Ukraine in October 2009 with no racist incidents. I can remember chatting at the end of the game with fellow England fan, Yassir Sidique about what a great trip this had been.

Nor have any of these reports mentioned the fact that in recent seasons Arsenal, Spurs, Man City and Fulham have all played in the Ukraine in European club competitions. Unlike the England game I wasn’t at these matches but as far as I know no racist incidents were reported.

The group I am involved with, LondonEnglandFans, has since January been holding fan forums with Ukrainians. The issue of racism and hooliganism has come up, of course it has. But we’ve had the good sense to put this in context. These incidents are almost exclusively at club level, between Ukrainian teams and involved a minority of fans, certainly not all fans, and even less so all Ukrainians.

In the past the actions of a small but significant minority of England fans was allowed to create a negative reputation for all England fans. Now this same gross error is being applied to others. However serious the incidents of racism this is entirely wrong. The Ukrainians are unsurprisingly very angry with the way they are being misrepresented. Last week our final forum with Ukrainians was dominated by this issue. We made it very clear that as England fans we rejected the way their entire nation and culture was being mistreated. They were amazed and pleased, the forum was filmed by two of Ukraine’s main TV stations, our message we hope will reach many in the Ukraine too.

The coverage is unhelpful in three other ways too.

First it is patronising. Few fans, black or white, travel to an overseas away game incapable of taking sensible precautions; don't get in an unmarked car, don’t stray too far off the tourist trail, if an attactive lady invites you into a bar for a drink ask yourself why?

Second some of it is hypocritical. The BBC Panorama programme tells us Ukraine is a hotbed of violent racism and the far-right yet if its that bad why has the BBC not campaigned for the past 4 years to prevent Ukraine hosting Euro 2012. And if it is that bad why are all the BBC sports programme trumpeting how much they are looking forward to kick off?

Third, there is no context. France is the Euro 2016 host, in the recent French presidential elections Marie Le Pen, a fascist, attracted 18% of the vote. No far right group has anything like this degree of support in the Ukraine, so where’s the balance in the coverage?

When we met the Ukrainians we made it clear that we are absolutely opposed to racism. if abuse ot worse is directed at our players or fans we will be the first to complain. They understood this and agreed with us. At the same time as England fans we have worked toward a situation where we are treated on the basis of our own behaviour not on the basis of a reputation that others have stuck on us. It is all we can ask for, and the same principle should be fairly applied to others.

Reporting of racism in football, in the Ukraine and anywhere else, is vital so that it can be stopped. But balance and context is just as important too. In the build-up to this tournament my fear is that sensationalism has led to the demonisaton of all Ukrainians at the expense of a clear and targeted anti-racist message.

Mark Perryman is the author of Ingerland : Travels with a Football Nation



 Posted: 4 Jun 2012 | There are 4 comments

Comments

Comment 1 | From: Habiba noorani | Date: 4 June 2012, 14:51

I agree with what has been said as a Muslim due to terrorism many innocent muslims often get labled as terrorists when infact the majority of us Muslims are peace loving people similar thing has happened in ukrane where most of them are not racist at all media has a habit of destroying reputations


Comment 2 | From: marry | Date: 8 June 2012, 17:41

Are you going to visit Poland for Euro 2012? I'm going to see the match between Spain and Italy on June the 10th in Gdansk. We shall celebrate the game and later on go to the club. I recommend Zatoka Sztuki club in Sopot. It's located on the beach; you can have a nice and tasty dinner there and in the evening start a party. Super music, goregeus girls and delicious drinks. It'a all in there, and at affordable prices especially for Euro 2012! I like other clubs as well; Dream Club in Sopot or V Club in Gdansk. You won't find cheaper drinks elsewhere.


Comment 3 | From: Stephen Gash | Date: 19 June 2012, 18:26

In 2006's World Cup in Germany English fans were so well behaved they drew praise form the organisers, German police and Searchlight magazine. Nevertheless, the BBC's Panorama broadcasted an edition entitled "The English disease" that focused on less than a dozen English fans involved with any kind of ruckus. Indeed when some fans were pelted with bottles by other fans Panorama tried to say it was the English fans who provoked it. The programme endeavoured to portray English fans as the main troublemakers. Croatia's FA has reportedly just been fined for some fans' racist activity, but it is highly unlikely that Panorama will produce an edition called "The Croatian Disease", not that I want it to because most of what the BBC broadcasts is biased, inaccurate and highly politicised. The BBC is not regulated by Ofcom for impartiality, this being transferred to the BBC Trust by Tony Blair's Labour government. In return the BBC was expected to promote Labour's regionalisation and expunging of England. This it did with relish, rebranding the BNP and NF as English parties and the English flag as uniquely racist. Here is a timeline 1966 – The World Cup and the Union Jack adorned the mascot World Cup Willy, was flown all over England and filled Wembley Stadium on that glorious day. 1967 - National Front founded with the Union Jack as its emblem 1968 – Enoch Powell's “rivers of blood” speech with the Union Jack paraded 1982 - British National Party founded with the Union Jack as its emblem 1996 - England supporters fly the English Cross of St. George at football’s European Championships as their main flag, and this is recognised as being the first time that Crosses of St. George swamped the Union Jack out of existence. The truth is English fans re-adopted the Cross of St. George to get away from the Union Jack that had been tainted with racism by the BRITISH far right. However, the BBC persistently branded the English flag as racist, particularly on St George's Day. Channel 4 is even worse. Every report about racism it airs has a backdrop of the Cross of St George. The BBC has forfeited its right to compulsory public funding. On its own admission it has become a left wing mouthpiece. That's fine, but it should be privately financed and join Channel 4 in its anti-English lies. English people should not be compelled to pay for a "service" from an organisation that so clearly hates them.


Comment 4 | From: Stephen Gash | Date: 19 June 2012, 19:12

In 2006's World Cup in Germany English fans were so well behaved they drew praise form the organisers, German police and Searchlight magazine. Nevertheless, the BBC's Panorama broadcasted an edition entitled "The English disease" that focused on less than a dozen English fans involved with any kind of ruckus. Indeed when some fans were pelted with bottles by other fans Panorama tried to say it was the English fans who provoked it. The programme endeavoured to portray English fans as the main troublemakers. Croatia's FA has reportedly just been fined for some fans' racist activity, but it is highly unlikely that Panorama will produce an edition called "The Croatian Disease", not that I want it to because most of what the BBC broadcasts is biased, inaccurate and highly politicised. The BBC is not regulated by Ofcom for impartiality, this being transferred to the BBC Trust by Tony Blair's Labour government. In return the BBC was expected to promote Labour's regionalisation and expunging of England. This it did with relish, rebranding the BNP and NF as English parties and the English flag as uniquely racist. Here is a timeline 1966 – The World Cup and the Union Jack adorned the mascot World Cup Willy, was flown all over England and filled Wembley Stadium on that glorious day. 1967 - National Front founded with the Union Jack as its emblem 1968 – Enoch Powell's “rivers of blood” speech with the Union Jack paraded 1982 - British National Party founded with the Union Jack as its emblem 1996 - England supporters fly the English Cross of St. George at football’s European Championships as their main flag, and this is recognised as being the first time that Crosses of St. George swamped the Union Jack out of existence. The truth is English fans re-adopted the Cross of St. George to get away from the Union Jack that had been tainted with racism by the BRITISH far right. However, the BBC persistently branded the English flag as racist, particularly on St George's Day. Channel 4 is even worse. Every report about racism it airs has a backdrop of the Cross of St George. The BBC has forfeited its right to compulsory public funding. On its own admission it has become a left wing mouthpiece. That's fine, but it should be privately financed and join Channel 4 in its anti-English lies. English people should not be compelled to pay for a "service" from an organisation that so clearly hates them.


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