Wisla Krakow stadium: photo - Piotr Drabik/wikicommons
“We are having discussions with [the clubs],” Krakow's deputy mayor Magdalena Sroka told thenews.pl at a press conference last Friday launching what the local government claims is a comprehensive anti-racism strategy in the city.
The controversial BBC Panorama documentary showed scenes of anti-Semitic chanting and banners by fans at a local derby between arch-rivals Wisla and Cracovia.
“We believe that, step by step, the clubs will also take more responsibility for this kind of activity at stadiums,” says Deputy Mayor Sroka, acknowledging the explosive rivalry between Wisla and Cracovia, which is steeped in anti-Semitic rhetoric.
She added however that the Polish football association (PZPN) must also take responsibility for racism at football stadiums.
Monkey chant denial
Last week, the Krakow local government released a statement denying that a group of people made monkey noises at black Dutch players during a open training session on 6 June at the Wisla Krakow stadium, which was attended by 25,000 fans.
Netherlands captain Mark van Bommel however said that he heard monkey chants being directed at the players and moved them away from where the chanting was coming from.
After initially denying the claim, UEFA admitted that there were “isolated incidents” of racist chanting and has called on local authorities to make sure that open training sessions during Euro 2012 do not experience racist chanting in the future.
Krakow town hall made the denial having checked recordings in the stadium, and having consulted with local police present at the event.
Adam Bulandra, project coordinator of the Interkulturalni Foundation, and co-author of the new city strategy on fighting racism, told thenews.pl that the problem needs to be addressed at the grass roots.
“The local community does not react properly to this problem,” he claimed.
“It does not actively oppose the incidents that happen, that's why they are so visible, and we want to change this situation.”
The local government campaign against racism will be based on an 80-page document created for the city over the last ten months.
Deputy Mayor Sroka outlined that the project will work on many levels, ranging from combating xenophobic graffiti - a regular sight outside football grounds in the city - to hosting tolerance-themed programmes in primary schools.
“We strongly believe that we can change and help people to open their minds, so that they can remember that Krakow was always a multicultural city,” she told thenews.pl.
Anna Blaszczak, a spokesperson for Poland's Omsbudsman for Citizens' Rights, noted that 10 percent of racism-related incidents in recent years have been in the southern Malopolska region, and the majority of these in Krakow.
While noting that the number of incidents in the region might appear modest, she highlighted that according to experts, 80 percent of racist crimes go unreported.
Sixty eight percent of foreigners in the southern region live in Krakow, and the city is visited by 2 million people from other countries each year.
The so-called 'Urban Strategy for the prevention and response to racist and xenophobic incidents' stresses that a key goal should be Krakow's membership in the European Coalition of Cities Against Racism, an initiative led by UNESCO. (pg/nh)