Racist chanting and homophobia at Russian professional football matches rose sharply last season, a new report has revealed.
With just weeks to go until the World Cup, the report by the anti-discrimination Fare network and Moscow-based Sova Centre criticised the Russian FA and Fifa for “missed opportunities” in tackling the issue.
Discriminatory chanting, including monkey chants towards black players and neo-Nazi songs, was recorded 19 times during the 2017/18 season – up from two in the previous season and ten in 2015/16.
In total, they recorded 80 examples of far-right, discriminatory or racist behaviour last season.
Of these, 51 included far-right or neo-Nazi symbols or slogans, 12 involved anti-black racism and 12 were incidents of homophobia.
The report said: “The rise of homophobia inside stadiums is new. We now see fans labelling opponents as “gay” as a means of abuse more often than ever before.
“This is a practice that takes sustenance from state-led homophobia, but has been copied from leagues in Western Europe.
“These levels of discriminatory chanting indicate that xenophobic views remain deeply rooted among many Russian football fans.
“We note that despite the attention of the media and efforts of the Russian Football Union, fans continue to direct monkey chants at black players regularly.”
The groups said the Russia FA deserved credit for its efforts in establishing an in-stadium observer system and for sanctioning clubs when incidents have taken place.
Spartak Moscow were fined 350,000 roubles (£4,230) – the heaviest fine of any club this season – and given partial stadium closure after fans targeted Locomotiv Moscow’s Brazilian-born Russian goalkeeper Guilherme Marinato with a racist chant in March.
Fare and Sova said they had cause to hope the security forces would prevent the threat from hooligan firms during the tournament.
But the report added: “We do not have as much confidence in the prevention of non-violent racist incidents, despite the many well-intentioned reassurances.
“The atmosphere of the World Cup and the make-up and variety of fans in the stadiums will differ significantly from the environment in the domestic league.
“But if representatives of active fan groups are present in the stands and nearby to stadiums, the risk of racist and homophobic incidents will increase.”
While the overall number of incidents recorded had declined, the organisations warned the figures were “the tip of the iceberg”.
They were compiled between June last year and this month by monitoring public sources, including the Russian FA’s own monitoring system, as well as closed discussion groups and online fan forums.
The executive director of the Fare network, Piara Powar, said: “There are reasons to hope that the World Cup authorities will not allow serious violent incidents to take place by using all the resources of law enforcement agencies and special services.
“However, the football authorities in Russia and Fifa have missed valuable opportunities and time to deliver lasting change in Russia.
“We hope the spirit that brings people together will keep fans with provocative intentions out of the World Cup, and equality and understanding will be the prevalent story of Russia 2018.”