Indicator history

Close Window

Sport: Racism, racist violence and hate speech in sporting venues (and reporting and policing thereof)?

Key Area:
Public Life, Culture, Sport & Media
25/02/2012 - 04:17
Short Answer


Qualitative Info


By far the most common form of racism in sports is racial abuse against black footballers, which takes the form of racial verbal abuse and harassment by fans of the opposite team during matches, widely reported by the national and European media, but also against Turkish Cypriot spectators. Three top football clubs belonging to the traditional right seem to be particularly prone to such problems. The same clubs face problems in their basketball and volleyball teams, particularly but not exclusively their male teams, albeit to a lesser extent than in football. This is attributed to the fact that football draws much larger crowds of fans sitting in large and open spaces at the football pitch rather than the closed and smaller arrangements in volleyball and basketball which are easier to monitor. Racist violent attacks perpetrated by football fan clubs can take place in different forms, sometimes on the football ground itself, but also before or after the matches as well as outside the football pitch.

On 24.12.2004 the equality body issued a report on racist behaviour during football matches, following a complaint from one fan club (Enosis Neon Paraliminiou) against another (Anorthosis) for the racist behaviour of the latter’s fans against the African footballer Nagoli Kennedy on 14.02.2004. This report is landmark as it sets out the framework for the handling of these incidents by the football authorities and led to the adoption of measures which however turned out not to be far reaching enough to have a serious impact. The complaint stated that every time Kennedy touched the ball fans of Anorthosis were booing and imitating ape sounds but there was no reaction either from the referee, or by the Cyprus Football Association, or the stadium authorities or the police. The club also complained to FARE and the disciplinary committee of UEFA arguing that in 2003 the fans of Anorthosis demonstrated similar racist behaviour against black players of AEL, whilst fans of APOEL displayed racist behaviour in every match where there are African players playing in the opponent club. The Cyprus Football Association disagreement with the assessment of the complainant that “the situation is tragic” and states that “on the contrary the Cyprus Football Association has evaluated the situation and has concluded that the incidents are sporadic, there is no concerted practice and by the low profile measures taken” the Cyprus Football Association “believes that the matter will not escalate.” In response to the allegation that the incidents were ignored both by the Cyprus Football Association observer as well as by the referee at the match, the Cyprus Football Association claimed that the incidents went unnoticed because they were of such low magnitude. The equality body report concluded that the frequency of racist behaviour in the football field and the shouting of racist slogans are not isolated incidents; instead, the behaviour complained of is indeed regularly manifested and recommended a set of measures.

Over the last few years, a number of sports-related cases were investigated by the Anti-discrimination Authority: a violent racial attack on 15.1.2009 by Greek Cypriot hooligans against Turkish-Cypriot fans who were watching a football match; a racial attack against a fifteen-year-old black pupil who was playing volleyball for her school team, in December 2008; a racial attack against migrants in the rural village of Ypsonas in June 2008 where although taking place outside the football pitch, the perpetrators were members of the same football fan club and had organised the attack from within their club; same happened with a racial attack against Turkish-Cypriot students at the English School in Nicosia on 22.11.2006, which although outside the football pitch, again the perpetrators organised the attack from their football fan club (APOEL).

In December 2010, after a professional men's basketball match in Nicosia between a Greek Cypriot team (APOEL) and a Turkish team (Pinar Karsiyaka), fans of the Greek Cypriot team attacked the players of the Turkish team, nearly provoking a diplomatic incident between Cyprus and Turkey. According to the police, no Pinar Karsiyaka members were injured during the incident that started after the final whistle when APOEL fans threw coins and cigarette lighters at the Turkish team. NGO reports stated that the Turkish team’s coach sustained a bone fracture in his arm as a result of the attack. The police claimed to have prevented a group of APOEL fans from charging the Turkish team's locker room, while tear gas was used to disperse about 500 stone-throwing fans outside the stadium. Three 15-year-olds were arrested while five police officers suffered minor injuries. Pinar Karsiyaka had wanted to be transported to the breakaway north after the violence, but Greek Cypriot officials "worked all night" to prevent that because it would have cast doubt over the government's ability to provide security to Turkish athletes. The police escorted the Turkish team to its Nicosia hotel where security around the building had been stepped up. The team departed a few days later without incident. In the end, there were no prosecutions or convictions and the three youth arrested were released shortly afterwards. The president of the Republic condemned the attack as “providing fuel to Turkish propaganda”, calling the attackers “brainless hooligans.”

Groups affected/interested Migrants, Africans/black people
Type (R/D) Extremism - organised Racist Violence, Nationalism, Xenophobia
Key socio-economic / Institutional Areas Sport
External Url