Action to safeguard non-white England supporters in Ukraine

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The Independent Football

Uefa are so concerned that non-white fans could face racial abuse or violence at this summer's European Championships that it is backing plans to create safe areas for them. Fears are increasing that non-white England fans visiting Ukraine in particular might be targeted by racist groups given the strong links between football supporters there and far-right political parties.

Football Against Racism in Europe (Fare), which is funded by European football's governing body, is creating dozens of safe areas known as "inclusivity zones" in town centres, bars, restaurants and outside football grounds across Ukraine. A smaller number will also be set up in Poland.

The zones will be marked with posters stating they are safe places for all races where all "differences will be welcome" and racist and homophobic abuse or behaviour will not be tolerated. Giant screens will be erected for non-white fans and other minority groups to watch games in a safe environment.

Local fans in the zones will be encouraged to be hospitable to non-white fans and to protect them if they face any racial abuse.

The zones will be monitored by Fare officials, who will liaise with police. Fare is also launching a range of other activities during the tournament under the title "Respect Diversity, Football Unites".

A 24-hour hotline will be run by Fare officials offering non-white fans the latest information on any racist incidents during the tournament and which locations and bars to avoid in Poland and Ukraine.

Piara Powar, the executive director of Fare, said: "We want to create a safe and secure environment for all fans regardless of their race. There are some serious issues around racism and football in countries like Ukraine and this tournament is an excellent chance to address them.

"It may seem a bit extreme to some having to set up inclusivity zones but we don't want non-white fans being put off from travelling to the European Championship."

An increasing number of non-white fans are following England at major tournaments and many are expected to travel to Ukraine. England play three matches there, against France and Ukraine in Donetsk and Sweden in Kiev.

Almost every club in the Ukrainian Premier League has organised right-wing fans groups with links to right-wing or neo-Nazi political parties. Banners with racist or neo-Nazi slogans are common at matches along with racist abuse of black players. Two years ago 1,000 fans marched through Kiev before a friendly against Chile demanding foreign players be expelled from all Ukrainian clubs.

Theo van Seggelen, general secretary of Fifpro, the European footballer's body, said that players could face unprecedented levels of racial abuse during the tournament and that fans could be targeted by right-wing hooligans particularly in Ukraine. "Ukraine will be very difficult for fans," he said. "I think this tournament will not be remembered for the atmosphere. Ukraine is not ideal for this kind of event."

Racist attacks in Ukraine have declined after a peak of 184 recorded in 2007 and 2008 when 12 racist murders took place. The government has introduced tougher anti-racism legislation and diversity classes in schools but the Council of Europe's Commission against Racism and Intolerance said the situation in Ukraine had improved but there were still significant "causes for concern".

Foreign Office advice for visitors to Ukraine warns that "those of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent and individuals from religious minorities should take extra care".