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Coffee House

The politics of sport

10 June 2012

10:15 AM

10 June 2012

10:15 AM

Football dominates the newspapers this morning, with England due to begin their European Championship campaign tomorrow. But the issue of racism in Ukraine, and to a lesser extent Poland, is a major feature of the coverage, with some commentators suggesting that players should refuse to play if their teammates are subjected to abuse. Ruud Gullit, of sexy football fame, is the latest retired star to back unilateral walk-offs. 

UEFA, the European football governing body, has already said that its on-pitch officials will book any player who leaves the field, which has outraged numerous players, including the frenetic Manchester City and Italy striker Mario Balotelli. I imagine that lawyers will also be eyeing UEFA’s stance, on the grounds that there are provisions against discrimination in the work place. 

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Politicians have jumped on some of these questions. Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary and football nut, has written a piece in the Mail on Sunday calling on the government, and the country, to support the England team’s right not to play if its black players are abused. Alexander also says that the government should boycott Ukraine over its human rights record, as the German government has.

Away from the cheap politics, Alexander mentions in passing the central questions surrounding Ukraine/Poland 2012: ‘why UEFA chose to hold the Euro championships where it has, and whether it did enough in advance to tackle racism in the host countries.’

Should the government make a stand where UEFA appears to have failed? I could bore for Britain on this question, but won’t. CoffeeHousers, over to you.

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