The number of racist acts committed by Russian football fans has doubled in the country which will host the 2018 World Cup, with most cases going unpunished, anti-discrimination campaigners have said.
Researchers from the Moscow-based Sova Centre and the Uefa-affiliated Fare Network logged 92 incidents of discriminatory displays and chants in and around stadiums last season, compared to a total of 83 for the previous two seasons put together.
At the World Cup, “there will be incidents inside stadiums, around stadiums. The question will be how frequently they occur, how serious they are,” Fare executive director Piara Powar said.
“Given the closeness to the World Cup, we’re now talking about a situation where we are trying to minimise those incidents rather than eradicate them altogether.”
Black people were increasingly targeted by Russian fans last season. The report identified 10 cases of abuse of black people – some of them players – compared to five in the previous two seasons. In July, Zenit St Petersburg striker Hulk said he faced racist abuse in “almost every game” in Russia.
Powar said: “[The Russian Football Union] is getting better at sanctioning clubs but there’s no apparent plan to work with fans to change the fan culture.”
Russian officials say they are tackling racism and argue the problem is no worse than in many countries. The reports detail discriminatory incidents last season in eight of the 11 World Cup host cities.
In addition, there were cases in seven more towns and cities which will host training for teams in 2018. There were also cases of Russian fans causing trouble abroad, with Fare citing racist banners displayed by CSKA Moscow fans at a Champions League game in Rome, and Russian fans with far-right symbols at the World Cup in Brazil.
The report does not include incidents this season, including in July when Emmanuel Frimpong, the Ghanaian, was banned for two games by the Russian Football Union after he gestured with a finger in response to apparent racist abuse.
In another case in August, CSKA fans abused supporters from Russia’s North Caucasus region throughout a league game, prompting the Anzhi Makhachkala club to call for a crackdown on “bigotry”.
The report also raises concerns that Russian fans with far-right links have gone to fight on both sides in the Ukraine conflict, something that co-author Nataliya Yudina, a Moscow-based researcher with the Sova Centre, considers dangerous.
“On fan forums, fans say that several especially aggressive radicals have gone to fight in Ukraine on the side of the self-declared republics,” she said. “That’s dangerous because they’ll come back here with the fighting experience that they’ve picked up, and with aggression.”