Internet platform for studying Xenophobia, Radicalism and Problems of Intercultural communication.

Xenophobia in Sport

Xenophobia in Sport

There were only a few such cases during the monitored period. On March 1, a 14-year-old black football player was subjected to racist abuse from the fans of a rival team during a cup game.

On August 16, 2014 Bray Wanderers player Ismail Akinade was subjected to racial abuse by a rival player.

But like in other Western democracies, nationalism and xenophobia have showed historic connections with some sections of sporting community in Ireland. As mentioned in Athena S. Leoussi’s (2001) Encyclopaedia of Nationalism, the Gaelic Athletic Association pursued a policy of promoting exclusively Irish sports from its inception in 1884 and plays a prominent role in the Irish republican movement of Northern Ireland today. Perhaps one of the most prominent incidents of far right nationalist involvement in sporting events in recent Irish history was the February 1995 Lansdowne Road Riot where the British far right paramilitary group, Combat 18, began chanting ‘Sieg Hail’ and gave Nazi salutes during a game between England and Ireland. Missiles were thrown on the pitch and a mini riot ensued.

Luckily, such high level incidences have not been experienced since but not without serious efforts by civil society organisations to combat racism and discrimination. One of the leading initiatives in the Republic of Ireland to promote positive integration and social inclusion in sports is Sports Against Racism Ireland (SARI). They put on regular events to combat discrimination, xenophobia and racism in football by putting on football tournaments, community events and school visits that promote cohesiveness and diversity in sport. Another organisation dedicated to stamping out xenophobia and racism in sport is Show Racism the Red Card (SRtRC), Ireland. Formally launch in 2006, SRtRC Ireland produces anti-racist educational resources, conducts awareness raising campaigns and delivers workshops and training in schools and other organisations across the country. In 2017 alone, the organisation reported that it had reached 6,000+ school students, involved 3,878 players in SRtRC actions, and allowed 200 schools to participate in its Anti-Racism Creative Competition.

Having said this, one of the most high profile of incidents of xenophobia in sport during the period under consideration came in the latter part of 2017. For instance, in November 2017, Republic of Ireland defender, Cyrus Christie, reported he had been ‘in tears’ after being subjected to a torrent of racist abuse on Twitter. The perpetrator in question had told Christie to ‘go play for Jamaica’ and suggested that he would start a petition to ‘lynch’ the Ireland defender. The incident was reported to the Irish Garda by the Football Association of Ireland and widely condemned by fans and official bodies alike. Talking about the abuse, Christie stated: ‘It is deeply saddening that racism is still part of the game we all enjoy and love. I strongly believe we need to stand up against these individuals who do not belong in football or any other sport.’ The Garda contacted Twitter as part of their investigations in an attempt to establish the identity of the perpetrator. As of March 2018, the Police investigation was inconclusive. Indeed, an additional report of overt racism online directed towards the defender was also being investigated at the time of writing.

In 2021, on the eve of the Olympic Games, the Irish team faced a racist campaign on the Internet, which was largely attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. With only a few weeks left before the Olympics, the Ireland team has made it clear that there will be no tolerance for hatred online towards those who represent Ireland. Heather Boyle, head of communications at Team Ireland, came up with the idea.

She said, "It's inevitable that when you go to events like this and you're in high status, a small minority of comments will be negative, but we shouldn't allow racist language." Team Ireland called on the public to destroy online racism by removing it, banning it from internet platforms and/or reporting it to the police. "This is a very strong statement in all sports, at all levels, down to potential Irish national team members, racism is unacceptable." Ms. Boyle believes that if it starts now, it will spread to all sports.

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