Football

Fans at risk to Euro 2012 violence

England will play two games in Donetsk. (©GettyImages)
England will play two games in Donetsk. (©GettyImages).

FIFPro have raised doubts over the suitability of Poland and Ukraine to host the European Championships this summer, with research suggesting both players and fans will be at risk to violence and racist abuse.

Over ten percent of professional players in eastern Europe, as surveyed by FIFPro, claim to have been victims of violence - predominantly from supporters - while almost as many say they have been subjected to racism.

This is certainly a worry for all involved as Uefa's showpiece event edges ever closer, while further concerns have also been raised regarding the logistics of hosting such a high-profile tournament in a country as sparse as Ukraine.

Chief among those to voice trepidation regarding Euro 2012 in Ukraine in particular has been FIFPro secretary-general Theo van Seggelen, who believes that players and opposition fans will be in danger from some of the indigenous population.

"Ukraine will be very difficult for fans," Van Seggelen told BBC Sport.

"I think that this tournament will not be remembered for the atmosphere - that for me is 100% sure. Ukraine is not the ideal place to play this kind of event."

He added: "We have to hope [the eastern European fans responsible for racism and violence] are not the same people who are watching the games in Poland and Ukraine [at Euro 2012] because then we have a real problem.

"I'm sure that the fans from the European countries who have qualified... will not be any problem. Four years ago in Switzerland and Austria it was fantastic.

"If the majority of fans are coming from these two countries [Poland and Ukraine], then I'm not 100% convinced that we will not have accidents, even in the stadiums."

Uefa president Michel Platini has already hit out at 'bandits and crooks' for exorbitant rises in hotel prices in Ukraine as businesses prepare for a significant influx of tourists this summer.

However, it would appear that fans may have greater concerns when it comes to personal welfare, should they make the trip to Ukraine for the European Championships.

England will play all three of their group matches in Ukraine; meeting France in Donetsk, Sweden in Kiev, before travelling back to Donetsk to face the host nation.

England have been provided with 15 percent of the 52,518 capacity Donbass Arena in Donetsk for their matches in the city, yet a significantly greater number of supporters are expected to follow the team's route.

This will, of course, increase the likelihood of violence - if FIFPro are to be believed - yet suggesting fans do not travel to Ukraine is surely beyond comprehension, even though Donetsk and Kharkiv in particular will struggle to cope with their influx.

Although Donetsk can boast a modern stadium and a football team of some repute, the city is far from a tourist destination and will prove to be a reasonable headache for fans in terms of logistics.

It is also regarding the less established Ukrainian cities that where doubts over their suitability are harboured the most, and Van Seggelen expects that travelling supporters will experience issues with natives outside of the grounds.

"I think that Uefa is capable, with the support of the government, of preventing these kind of events," he added.

"But I have more fear for what happens outside the stadium, especially for the fans, especially in Ukraine."

Football in Ukraine has been tarnished by incidents involving match-fixing, violence and racism, and the national association has worked tirelessly in an attempt to stamp out any threats prior to Euro 2012.

Uefa have frequently provided full support to both the Ukrainian government and FA to clean up the image of their national game, yet the reality would seem to suggest that their work may have been futile.

FIFPro have stopped short of advising fans against following their respective teams in Ukraine yet, if their concerns become a reality, serious questions will be raised as to why Uefa awarded their summer showpiece to a country with debatable football ethics.

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