To stop racism, UEFA must stop matches

If there is racist abuse from fans, then UEFA must stand with the players.

Not since two black US athletes raised their fists in solidarity with the civil rights struggle back home as they were awarded medals at the 1968 Olympics has a sporting contest been so overladen with the politics of racism as Euro 2012.

Already, the Dutch team complain that they have had to move their training matches elsewhere in Poland as black players have been the subject of racist abuse. Black English stars say their families cannot go to Ukraine for fear of meeting racism in the streets. In Baden Baden in 2006, where England stayed, the main street in the Black Forest spa had a giant banner in English saying, "Welcome and Good luck England." I watched as the Wags tottered on high heels on their daily shopping excursion. German store-keepers were interested in the colour of their money, not the colour of their soccer boyfriends' skins. Black players were treated as fellow Europeans.

Football, a sport that has done more than anything else to integrate non-white Brits as heroes of working class communities, will now be confronted with the moral test of either allowing racism in the crowds in Poland and Ukraine to surface or stamping on it so hard that the racists are forced to crawl back under their stones.

The fans come from all over Europe. Incidentally, problematic as racism and anti-Semitism are in East Europe, it is unfair to single out the two host countries. The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party in Greece has a  following in working-class Athens where anti-immigrant feeling is part of the current turn to the extremes. The monkey sounds or the chant "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas" are heard far to the west of the Dnieper when fans want to discountenance black players or teams that have some vague Jewish connection. "I'd rather be a Paki than a Jew" is a West Ham chant and it was the Daily Mail that highlighted Avram Grant's Jewishness when the Israeli was Chelsea manager. Recently, as they pander to voters, Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy, and David Cameron have made speeches denouncing "multiculturalism". BBC Question Time provides a monthly platform for Nigel Farage to denounce immigration or the presence of too many foreigners in Britain. Why should soccer fans feel they have to be saintly endorsers of multiculturalism on the pitch or cheer immigrant players in the enemy team when their national leaders promote monoculturalism? The sectarianism in Scottish football between Rangers and Celtic fans was allowed to fester for decades with the Scottish FA and Scottish politicians and editors turning a blind eye. It is leadership, not blaming lumpen elements in supporters, that is needed.

David Cameron's shamefully late announcement that Britain would join Germany, France and other EU nations and boycott the opening matches because of Ukraine's brutal treatment of its former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko shows how politicised the tournament has become. UEFA boss Michel Platini may whine that it is about sport, not politics, but he is contradicted by his own organisation, which has announced a programme of monitoring on racism amongst fans in the run-up to and during Euro 2012.

Rafael Pankowsky, Poland's leading campaigner on anti-Semitism and racism, has been hired by UEFA to promote what the football federation calls its Respect agenda. But UEFA has to do more than monitor or hold post-final inquiries. If there are monkey calls or other examples of racist abuse from fans, then the matches have to be stopped. The fans should be evacuated by force from stadiums and the matches played to empty stands. Nothing else will do to cauterise the continuing racism in sport. Any player who feels racially abused must be supported by Roy Hodgson and other managers, so that teams walk off the pitch with their heads high, rather than allow racist abuse to go rewarded.

In 1970, Willy Brandt fell to his knees at the Warsaw Ghetto as an acknowledgement of where racist anti-Semitism had led to in German politics. Sometimes, great public symbols are needed to turn political life in a new direction. Football is run by some of the most selfish, greediest and stupidest men on earth. But even they know racism when it is heard and chanted in their faces. Maybe, and let's hope so, Euro 2012 will be about sport, not politics. But if a player and his mates stop play, rather than suffer racist abuse, the world will be with them and so should UEFA .

Denis MacShane MP is a former Europe minister. Follow him at @denismacshane or www.denismacshane.com

UEFA President Michel Platini attends the UEFA 2012 RESPECT Campaign launch at Warsaw National Stadium. Photograph: Getty Images.
Denis MacShane is MP for Rotherham and was a minister at Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Photo:Getty
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Why isn't Labour putting forward Corbynite candidates?

Despite his successes as a candidate, the organisational victories have gone the way of Corbyn's opponents. 

The contest changes, but the result remains the same: Jeremy Corbyn’s preferred candidate defeated in a parliamentary selection. Afzhal Khan is Labour’s candidate in the Manchester Gorton by-election and the overwhelming favourite to be the seat’s next MP.

Although Khan, an MEP, was one of  the minority of Labour’s European MPs to dissent from a letter from the European parliamentary Labour party calling for Jeremy Corbyn to go in the summer of 2016, he backed Andy Burnham and Tom Watson in 2015, and it is widely believed, fairly or unfairly, that Khan had, as one local activist put it, “the brains to know which way the wind was blowing” rather than being a pukka Corbynite.

For the leader’s office, it was a double defeat;  their preferred candidate, Sam Wheeler, was kept off the longlist, when the party’s Corbynsceptics allied with the party’s BAME leadership to draw up an all ethnic minority shortlist, and Yasmine Dar, their back-up option, was narrowly defeated by Khan among members in Manchester Gorton.

But even when the leadership has got its preferred candidate to the contest, they have been defeated. That even happened in Copeland, where the shortlist was drawn up by Corbynites and designed to advantage Rachel Holliday, the leader’s office preferred candidate.

Why does the Labour left keep losing? Supporters combination of bad luck and bad decisions for the defeat.

In Oldham West, where Michael Meacher, a committed supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s, was succeeded by Jim McMahon, who voted for Liz Kendall, McMahon was seen to be so far ahead that they had no credible chance of stopping him. Rosena Allin-Khan was a near-perfect candidate to hold the seat of Tooting: a doctor at the local hospital, the seat’s largest employer, with links to both the Polish and Pakistani communities that make up the seat’s biggest minority blocs.  Gillian Troughton, who won the Copeland selection, is a respected local councillor.

But the leadership has also made bad decisions, some claim.  The failure to get a candidate in Manchester Gorton was particularly egregious, as one trade unionist puts it: “We all knew that Gerald was not going to make it [until 2020], they had a local boy with good connections to the trade unions, that contest should have been theirs for the taking”. Instead, they lost control of the selection panel because Jeremy Corbyn missed an NEC meeting – the NEC is hung at present as the Corbynsceptics sacrificed their majority of one to retain the chair – and with it their best chance of taking the seat.

Others close to the leadership point out that for the first year of Corbyn’s leadership, the leader’s office was more preoccupied with the struggle for survival than it was with getting more of its people in. Decisions in by-elections were taken on the hop and often in a way that led to problems later down the line. It made sense to keep Mo Azam, from the party’s left, off the shortlist in Oldham West when Labour MPs were worried for their own seats and about the Ukip effect if Labour selected a minority candidate. But that enraged the party’s minority politicians and led directly to the all-ethnic-minority shortlist in Manchester Gorton.

They also point out that the party's councillor base, from where many candidates are drawn, is still largely Corbynsceptic, though they hope that this will change in the next round of local government selections. (Councillors must go through a reselection process at every election.)

But the biggest shift has very little to do with the Labour leadership. The big victories for the Labour left in internal battles under Ed Miliband were the result of Unite and the GMB working together. Now they are, for various reasons, at odds and the GMB has proven significantly better at working shortlists and campaigning for its members to become MPs.  That helps Corbynsceptics. “The reason why so many of the unions supported Jeremy the first time,” one senior Corbynite argues, “Is they wanted to move the Labour party a little bit to the left. They didn’t want a socialist transformation of the Labour party. And actually if you look at the people getting selected they are not Corbynites, but they are not Blairites either, and that’s what the unions wanted.”

Regardless of why, it means that, two years into Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour left finds itself smaller in parliament than it was at the beginning.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.