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Expert Comment: Racism at England v Serbia football match

Football Friday 19 October 2012

Dr Joel Rookwood, Senior Lecturer in Health at Liverpool Hope, looks at racism in European football.

Stuart Pearce, the England U21s coach, said before the team left for the match that he didn’t think racism was a problem in Serbia any more.

There’s a precedent for really violent behaviour in Serbia’s football grounds. Football stadia in part of Europe are viewed as legitimate locations for this kind of behaviour.

Fans in Serbia know these kinds of views can be safely voiced at football games, so it’s not a problem that can be solved overnight.

What can UEFA actually do about this? There’s no point imposing a fine on anybody over this – it would have no real impact. They need to bring about a transformation of attitude, and that won’t happen quickly.

The best solution is to hit them where it hurts, by banning Serbia from international competition.

If Serbia were banned from the World Cup in Brazil, there would be changes. The European ban placed on English clubs post-Heysel had a positive effect.

First the fans' behaviour changes, then their attitudes. This is the funny way it’s been shown to work with football supporters; make them pretend to be nice, then they’ll BE nice.

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