Anti-discrimination center “Memorial” supports the statement issued by FARE (Football Against Racism), which spoke out against vilification of representatives of its member organization in Poland, “Never Again”. For many years FARE network brings together various initiative groups and associations for joint action combating discrimination and racism in football. Anti-discrimination center “Memorial” is proud to be a member of the FARE network and of having an opportunity to participate in campaigns against racism and discrimination. Organizations belonging to FARE network should not be prosecuted and subjected to threats for their anti-racist activities.
In August 2015 Zbigniew Boniek, President of the Polish Football Federation (PZPN), published a tweet criticizing Polish association “Never Again”. This happened immediately after UEFA imposed sanctions against “Lech” football club from Poznan for its fans displaying a banner which read “Legion Pila – blood of our race” during a qualification match against FC “Sarajevo” and which was considered racist by the UEFA. The Polish football club was punished for this by having to conduct a home match “behind closed doors” and a fine of 50 thousand euros. Polish Football Federation appealed against the fine and issued a statement declaring zero tolerance for racism and Nazism. It stated that according to the club’s fans this banner did not contain racist remarks. Representatives of the “Never Again” association explained that each club had received information on how to combat discrimination as well as a list of racist symbols and slogans used by football fans, among which was this slogan (“Blood of our race” is a line from a song by a famous neo-Nazi group) . Rafal Pankowsky (“Never Again”) also noted that earlier both the Polish Football Federation and the Ministry of Sports had supported this initiative.
According to Boniek, it had been the work of observers from FARE that led to the imposition of sanctions against the Polish football club. FARE network believes that it was obvious that “Never Again” had fellen victims of vilification because of their fight against racism and against the presence of extreme-right in the football scene, but also because the association had been involved in monitoring of football matches.
In his Twitter account, which is read by some 300 thousand people, Zbigniew Boniek posted links to articles published on right-wing websites, which condemned “Never Again” and FARE. Besides that in his tweet he referred to one of the association’s members, Jacek Pursky, as a “red scum and Communist agent”.
Open letter expressing solidarity with “Never Again” association and condemning Boniek’s actions was signed by 52 Polish NGOs and was published in the country’s leading newspapers.
FARE’s monitoring system was accredited with UEFA and it consists of experienced and well-trained independent experts. Observers are not associated with the activities of UEFA or any other football organizations. Rafal Pankowsky explained that “Never Again” had no interest neither in the number, nor the total amount of fines issued for football clubs. A while ago the head of UEFA’s directorate for social responsibility spoke in Warsaw about how the funds received in payment of fines had been spent on sports activities for people with disabilities.
Actions vilifying FARE observers, as well as associations fighting racism, are unacceptable in terms of fair play, especially in light of the recent efforts to identify expressions of racism and xenophobia in the big football. FARE states that accusations of this kind by the management of football federations should immediately stop.
The statement is available here: http://www.farenet.org/news/statement-on-the-campaign-of-vilification-of-the-never-again-association/