Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) has published its report of discriminatory incidents in Russian football for the 2017/18 season, showing a decrease in incidents of offensive banners in the season's second half.
The report, compiled from July 2017 to May 2018, states there were 80 incidents in all divisions of Russian football, mainly banners with far-right symbols. In the majority of those incidents, the clubs involved seriously punished those responsible.
“I have already seen the FARE account for this season, it is good to see that our fight against occurrences of discrimination for this year was top grade,” said Alexey Smertin, who is Russia's Anti-Racism and Discrimination Inspector.
“The number of violations due to discrimination in Russia for the last two years is falling. Yes, there were a good number of banners with prohibited symbols, but that was in the first half of the season," the former Premier League footballer and Russia international added.
“We focused on this problem, in a seminar with football clubs in February, and they carried out work, which resulted in similar flags appearing much less regularly in the second half of the season.”
Of the 80 total occurrences, the report outlines that “far-right or neo-Nazi discrimination” is the most frequent form of discrimination with 51 incidents, followed by “anti-black racism” and homophobia, with 12 occurrences each.
Smertin, who also played for Fulham and Portsmouth in England, as well as French side Bordeaux, said that the issue is being tackled, and that work is being done, especially with youth players, to promote respect to opponents.
“As regards discriminatory chants, our system of monitoring also noted these incidents, and those guilty were punished. Unfortunately, it is an issue of cultural behavior of small fan groups. I hope that next season clubs will also strengthen their work in this direction,” Smertin said.
“It is important to continue this work further with young fans and junior footballers, through the game and sport to explain to them respect not only to their team, but to opponents, to bring sense, that everyone in the world is different. Football - it is the best platform for this dialogue.
“And of course it is very important that FARE expressed certainty that the World Cup is free from any kind of discrimination, and a full festival of football is expected in Russia. As for the potential provocation, the FAN ID and FIFA’s monitoring system will not allow that to happen.”
Banners mentioned in FARE’s report include those featuring far-right symbols, which the report outlines “were used in Nazi Germany and are unambiguously associated with far-right ideology.”
However, unsavory chants were reported as being on the rise. Accounts of racist chants, neo-Nazi songs and anti-Caucasian and homophobic chants were reported 19 cases this season compared to 2 last season and 10 the season before “despite the attention of the media and efforts of the Russian Football Union.”
On such instances, the report states: “A particularly big case involved Spartak Moscow in which thousands of their fans were involved in a racist chant against the Brazilian-born Russia national team goalkeeper, Guilherme.”
Guilherme, who won the Russian Premier League title last season with Lokomotiv Moscow, was named in Russia’s preliminary squad for the World Cup.