Level of discrimination in Russian football is still alarming: new report

Photo: Jon Candy/Flickr

Photo: Jon Candy/Flickr


By Stine Alvad
The anti-discrimination group FARE ’remain alarmed’ ahead of the 2018 World Cup in spite of a decrease in racist incidents compared to last season, says a new report detailing racist and far-right incidents in Russian football.

89 incidents of racist and far-right actions have been reported in Russian football and documented in this year’s monitoring report by Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) and Russian anti-discrimination information and research centre SOVA.

The report is entitled ‘A changing picture’ and the change is a decrease from the 2015-16 season’s 101 reported incidents to 89 in the 2016-17 season.

The discriminatory actions included the newest report range from signs and banners at football matches for the most part (84), incidents on the pitch (1), discriminatory chanting (2) and attacks (8). By far the largest part of the actions has to do with far-right and neo-Nazi symbols (79).

This season’s numbers, however, still show a sharp increase since the first two seasons (2012/13 and 2013-14) that recorded 99 incidents combined. 

Since the first report of this kind was issued in 2012, Russian authorities have gone from denying any raised issue of discriminatory actions in Russian football to acknowledging that there is a problem and to appointing an anti-racism inspector.

Former Russian footballer Alexey Smertin has been tasked with keeping racism away from Russian football and in a recent interview with the news channel CNN, he vowed that a racist incident will not be damaging the 2018 World Cup.

“It won't be. I can guarantee. The people who know me, they know how honest I was on the pitch. Why should I lie?” Smertin said and described racism in football as a “global problem”, not specifically Russian.

Another one of the measures taken is the so-called ‘Spectator Law’ regulating behavior of fans inside Russian stadiums, but according to the report, it still needs evaluation of its practical implementation.

“The Russian football authorities and the government authorities have realised that the World Cup will be tarnished by the fear of racism taking place and they have taken some quite strong measures,” said Fare executive director Piara Powar in a press release accompanying the release of the report.  

Despite these measures, discriminatory actions “are still common in Russian football and its fan scene,” the report reads and in the concluding comment, authors FARE and SOVA state that they “remain alarmed by the significant number of radical manifestations of racism involving football fans and consider it as a serious threat to the security of Russian society as a whole”.

FARE also recently published a ‘Global Guide to Discriminatory Practices in Football’ outlining the most common discriminatory practices as a guide for fans, governing bodies and other stakeholders in the sport for identifying and preventing this sort of abuse in football.

“The guide underlines forms of discrimination directed at ethnic minorities, LGBT+ people, women and the disabled. As such it is an important resource that we hope will help question discrimination, conscious and unconscious, and prevent actions that exclude, insult and erase the dignity of players, referees, coaches, fans and others through football,” FARE director Powar said about the guide in a press release.

More information


FARE press releaase about report:
Monitoring report details racism in Russian in football

Report on discrimination in Russian football:
A Changing Picture: Incidents of discrimination in Russian Football 2015 - 17

FARE press release about global guide:
Guide to discriminatory practices in world football launched

Global guide:
Global Guide to Discriminatory Practices in Football

CNN article about Russian initiatives regarding racism in football

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