Tonight’s edition of the BBC’s Panorama series was entitled “Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate” which I hadn’t planned to watch but thought it was worth 30 mins in the background.
If you didn’t manage to catch it (you can watch via BBC’s iPlayer if available where you are) Chris Rogers, an investigative journalist, spent some time in Poland / Ukraine to see for himself the racism and anti-Semitism and to pose the question “How safe will the travelling teams and fans be at Euro 2012?”.
This is not about creating a passionate storm over a few incidents caught on camera, but those that were captured screamed (and yes I am making assumptions) warnings of a deeper societal problem. It wasn’t the fact that there were obviously minority groups acting or merely talking about violence it was the ingrained nature of the images and tolerance demonstrated by the local authorities and footballing regulators.
To see almost professionally created murals (and no signs of attempted removal), chanting on a grand scale (crowds of at least hundreds at one game) and stomach churning sickening and obscene physical brutality caught on camera in a relatively condensed period of research was an emotionally jarring experience.
Twitter erupted into anti-racist life with numerous #bbcpanorama hashtagged outbursts with @StanCollymore showing a calm sense, albeit with a hint of jaded tolerance compared to my own instinctive anger reactions.
I’m too world-weary to expect the our society to be a sanitised place, and there are no patriotic ivory towers to hide within, but the European Championship is a multi-billion dollar event and I am intrigued to find out more about the brands who have spent millions on sponsorships and plans. Each of the twelve companies listed below professes to understand CSR but where will the material local geographic event issues within their plans?
In a game with a power to influence so many people through the wonder of TV and growing online media is there a PR time-bomb waiting to expose these big brands as associated with racism to millions of impressionable young football fans?
I found a list of sponsor contacts via the UEFA website and thought I’d drop them a polite email (copied below) and also Twitter messages to see who would respond, what they would say and their plans were to play their part in this crucial aspect at this convergence of their audiences and their products.
I will keep you updated on any responses I receive, although I am not going to hold my breath.
The twelve Euro 2012 sponsors are:
Dear Euro 2012 Sponsor
I love football. It is called the beautiful game for a reason. I eagerly await the first kick-off at Euro 2012 and I’m glad you are supporting this fantastic festival through your sponsorship.
As an ex-football industry professional and current Corporate Responsibility believer I was drawn to the recent BBC Panorama television documentary – Euro2012: Stadiums of Hate (broadcast 29th May) and I wanted to enquire about your organisations CSR related activity to the tournament.
I understand that racism and hate crimes are indicators of deeper social challenges beyond the walls of football stadia, but the alleged blatant intolerance reported is cause for the gravest concern for football, for society and for your company. I also understand that a two week football tournament is not an authentic time frame for substantial wider cultural change to be accomplished, but there is a once in a lifetime opportunity to address this particular issue.
But… as one of the high profile organisations, and thus perceived leaders, aiming to improve sales of your products as a direct result of your sponsorship, I would be grateful if you could enlighten myself and our audiences how you plan to make sure your activity is relevant to local geographical social needs?
Thank you in advance for your reflection and response. I eagerly look forward to relaying your plans to a wider audience.