London – Former England international Sol Campbell is warning England fans not to travel to Euro 2012 because of the threat of racism and violence.
Campbell, the former Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur defender who played 73 times for England and appeared at six major tournaments, told the BBC's Panorama programme: “Stay at home, watch it on TV. Don't even risk it ... because you could end up coming back in a coffin.”
Campbell's comments, widely reported on the front pages of several British newspapers on Monday, follow announcements from the families of two black England players who said they would not go to the championship.
The brother of midfielder Theo Walcott has tweeted that he and his father would not go because of “possible racist attacks” while the family of his Arsenal team mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have also shelved their plans to watch England.
The BBC documentary, to be aired on Monday in Britain, investigates violence and racism at football matches in the host countries.
It contains footage of fans giving Nazi salutes, taunting black players with monkey noises, anti-Semitic chants and a group of Asian students being attacked at the Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv which is hosting three group matches.
Last week a programme on Sky TV also highlighted racist and far-right groups plotting and threatening attacks during the three-week long tournament.
Campbell said Uefa should not have allowed Poland and Ukraine to host the competition, which start on June 8.
“I think that they were wrong,” he said. “What they should say is that if you want this tournament you sort your problems out.
“Until we see a massive improvement, that you have sorted it out, you are never going to get the tournament. You do not deserve these prestigious tournaments in your country.”
Last week Uefa presidet Michel Platini told Reuters he was optimistic that there would be no racism at the matches but agreed he was powerless to prevent it happening himself.
“I believe the tournament will be a great success, and I trust the fans will behave, but we shall see. There are problems at every tournament, always,” said the Frenchman.
“We also have problems with hotel prices in Ukraine, and we have raised our serious concerns. We do not want fans to stay away for any reason, and I hope they do not.”
In a statement, Uefa said: “Euro 2012 brings the spotlight on the host countries and clearly creates an opportunity to address and confront such societal issues.
“Uefa's zero-tolerance approach to racism is still valid both on and off the pitch and ultimately the referee has the power to stop or abandon a match should racist incidents occur.” – Reuters