Uefa have questions to answer as racism fears mount

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The scaremongering prior to major international sporting events is a tradition well founded in the UK, but the BBC's Panorama programme earlier this week heightened pre-tournament concerns to almost unparalleled levels as Euro 2012 approaches.

Former England defender Sol Campbell, who was interviewed as part of the investigation, offered a stark warning to ethnic minority supporters travelling to Poland and Ukraine this summer, by claiming fans could return 'in coffins'.

And he was right. The astonishing footage filmed by the BBC showed Nazi chants and gestures rooted in the very core of fandom in Poland and Ukraine, while it also revealed police authorities show a flagrant disregard to any such problems.

One particular incident during a match between Metalist and Shakhtar Donetsk in Kharkiv showed the extreme threat minority groups face in Ukraine, as a group of Asian supporters where attacked in an apparent planned rampage.

The Indian students, who had been studying in Ukraine, were at Metalist Stadium to support the home team but were deliberately set upon by Metalist's 'ultras', while no stewards or police came to their aid.

It was a terrifying incident, and one likely to be repeated when the supporters of Europe's great and good flood Poland and Ukraine for Uefa's showpiece international event in just over a week's time.

The threat of potential deaths is not only one to have been outlined by Campbell, but also by Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli, who will be representing Italy at the tournament.

However, Balotelli has threatened to take the law into his own hands if he suffers any racial attacks, and has pledged to 'kill' any perpetrators.

"I will not accept racism at all," he said. "It's unacceptable. If someone throws a banana at me in the street, I will go to jail, because I will kill them."

He added: "Let's see what happens at the Euros.

"I hope it will pass without a problem."

The families of England internationals Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will certainly echo Balotelli's sentiments, but have decided to address the threat of racially aggravated attacks in a different way.

Both families will not support their respective sons in Poland and Ukraine, after taking advice over they problems they may face, owing to the colour of their skin.

It is a decision neither family would have taken lightly but, so serious is the apparent risk, they can be forgiven for taking extra precautions regarding their safety.

The Panorama programme may not have been indicative of the problems faced in an entire nation, although it would be foolish to suggest such issues are only consigned to football stadiums and perpetrated by hooligans.

Racism has dominated the headlines this season more frequently than any in recent memory, and the English game cannot claim to have eradicated such threats entirely.

The Polish and Ukraine Football Associations can point towards John Terry's imminent trial for racial abuse and the reaction of Chelsea in support of their captain that English football cannot, to excuse the pun, claim to be whiter than white.

But it is the acceptance of a problem and the delivery of sufficient punishment that marks the English FA as one in possession of a greater moral compass, with Terry having been stripped of his England captaincy after the allegations emerged.

Uefa will believe they have done the right thing by awarding Euro 2012 to Poland and Ukraine, and claim such a high-profile event allows countries to seriously address issues previously neglected.

There is an element of understanding in this theory, yet this summer's tournament proves only to highlight Uefa's negligence and unwillingness to act in a more heavy handed manor when addressing the host FAs.

Euro 2012 could pass without major incident, or end in catastrophe. Whatever the outcome is, today's fears and concerns will be heightened once more when the World Cup reaches Russia in 2018.

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