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Battle against racism hindered as fans and clubs deny its existence

Football clubs and fans are denying the existence of racism in the sport, hindering attempts to kick the problem into touch, according to a new report.

Anti-racism campaigns have resulted in leaflets, guidance, training and monitoring projects but "too often clubs and fans deny the existence of racism at their club and this inhibits any opportunities to tackle the problem", the study commissioned by Uefa (the Union of European Football Associations) said.

The report asks clubs to fully commit themselves to eradicating racism and xenophobia from stadiums, stating: "Only when they are fully committed will they be able to support stewards, police and fan groups which challenge the problem in the stands."

Its author, Dr Mark Doidge, a research fellow at the University of Brighton's School of Sport and Service Management, has called on fans, players, clubs, security forces, national and international football organisations, the media and politicians to unite in the fight.

He said: "From Zenit St Petersburg fans declaring that their club should not sign anyone who was not Slavic, to Juventus fans racially abusing Mario Balotelli, expressions of racism continue.

"They take different forms and are grounded in the rivalry that exists within football."

Dr Doidge's Uefa report studied anti-racism in European football and named Germany's Borussia Dortmund (BVB) as an example of a club that has taken on board the anti-racism message.

He said: "It distributes leaflets to all fans clearly explaining what racist and far-right slogans are not permitted in the stadium.

"They provide resources and space in the stadium for a BVB project to educate young fans on racism, intercultural learning and civil courage (how to deal with conflict without violence)."

Dr Doidge has recommended that clubs step up education and support, and share ideas to combat the problem.

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