Racism, Football and the Internet

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This pilot study, published by the EUMC in 2001, is an analysis of the use of the internet to spread hate and racism and co-ordinate racist action at football matches. UEFA, the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network, the EUMC and the EU’s Committee of the Regions have met since the study was commissioned for more general discussions on how to combat racism in football.

UEFA [Union of European Football Associations], national football associations and FARE [Football against Racism in Europe] in particular continue to develop activities to promote football in the community and combat racism. The use of the internet by racist groups to damage the image of football serves as a reminder of the need to remain vigilant and alert to the variety of techniques employed by racist groups.

The report was carried out by the Unione Italiana Sport per Tutti (U.I.S.P) Comitato Regionale Emilia-Romagna on behalf of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). The author, Carlo Balestri, worked with three researchers (one Italian and two German) – Giusi Grasselli, Gerd Dembowski and Stefan Diener.

Drawing on their wider knowledge of fan culture and the internet, the three supporters/researchers used the technique of “content analysis” (monitoring recurrent key words and symbols, the structure and architecture of the documents) to classify football supporter sites in eight European countries. In total, 455 sites from Germany, UK, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, France, Portugal were classified as demonstrating ‘no racism’, ‘latent racism’, ‘recurrent racism’ and ‘strong racism’. Research classified 50 out of the 455 sites as containing racist content.

The findings indicate that Spain and Italy are the countries most seriously affected through the internet and points out that these are also the geographic areas where racism is most widespread in the stadiums. It concludes that in these countries there is “a lack of clear rules and efficient control preventing the spread of racism in Internet”. The research points to the recent history of immigration in these countries as a possible reason for such a widespread presence of racism in the stadiums. By contrast, immigration is described as an older phenomenon in other European countries. The research says that countries such as the UK and Germany have “had a chance to develop efficient countermeasures to contrast racism and discrimination, both at an institutional level and in large sectors of their societies” but that, far from eradicating racism, the result was “its exclusion from all public activities, thus forcing it to remain latent”.

The research proposes two paths to tackle this phenomenon: a legislative one (with the emphasis on clamping down) and a social one (with the goal of trying to achieve prevention). Among other proposals, it calls for a European level resolution to recognise spreading racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic material through the internet as a crime as a crime.

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