Monday night’s Panorama unearthed some shocking truths about racism in football in Poland and Ukraine – which were flatly denied by local police chiefs (Image | still from Panorama)

Anyone who watched BBC’s Panorama programme on Monday night will now know for certain what we all already believed. The powers at the fulcrum of European football are fundamentally uninterested in tackling the difficult problem of stamping out racism in Eastern European football.

I will make no attempt whatsoever to pretend that there is no racism in English – or Western European – football in 2012. The deluded Geordie who tweeted that there were too many black players in the Newcastle United squad following the signing of Papiss Cisse in January pays a sorry tribute to that. But, mercifully, we are at least 20 years beyond the scenes aired in Panorama on Monday.

Nazi symbolism. Fascist salutes. Ukrainian football ultras viciously assaulting a group of Asian students who were supporting the same team as the ultras. Groups of white fans making monkey noises and gestures at black players and their relatives. Many of the scenes belonged only in the history tapes; not the globalised football world of the 21st century.

During Monday night’s programme, former Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and England defender Sol Campbell – who was the focus of racist insults on a number of occasions during his international career – was visibly disgusted by what he saw. When the programme’s presenter, Chris Rogers, asked Campbell whether he would recommend families of black or Asian backgrounds travelling to the tournament, his response was immediate. “No chance. Don’t even think about it, stay at home and watch it on the telly.”

Equally worrying are the responses of local law enforcement chiefs and politicians. On the Panorama show itself, one police chief in Kharkiv was shown directly telling Rogers: “Up until now, we haven’t had any [racist] incidents. There have been none. And I hope that during the Euro 2012 Championships we will have none.” He dismissed the Nazi salutes being made by Metalist fans as “pointing to the other team … drawing attention to themselves.”

And Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Voloshyn has also waded into the debate in the aftermath of Sol Campbell’s comments, asking the BBC that since “Nazi symbols can be seen at … any match in England… does it mean that fans should not come to London for the Olympics?” Personally, it’s been a while since I saw massed ranks of fans racially abusing players or making fascist gestures at a Premier League match… but then, I suppose I haven’t watched Match of the Day all that closely this season.

This banner, displayed by Lokomotiv Moscow fans celebrating the departure of Peter Odemwingie to West Brom, paints a sorry picture of interracial relations in Russian football. We’ll find out if six years is long enough for that to change …

The biggest concern to me is not that ignorance to the intolerance is rife in Ukraine (singled out as the chief culprit by the documentary; fascist sentiment is unsurprisingly less widespread in Poland). The biggest concern is that by selecting Ukraine as a host nation for the 2012 UEFA European Championships, UEFA is demonstrating a lack of concern over the nation’s record of racism in football.

It is not hard to decipher why Michel Platini and his hoard of fawning minions have ignored the racism, the travel difficulties, the struggles to prepare and the other concerns with the Poland-Ukraine bid. His idol, Sepp Blatter, is determined to take the World Cup on a tour of the world, and Platini is proving his subservience to the man whose path he hopes to follow. As Blatter allowed the racism in Russia and the questionable human rights record of Qatar to be swept aside, so Platini has side-stepped inter-ethnic hostilities in Ukraine.

The families of England wingers Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have said they are not planning to travel to the tournament. Italy striker Mario Balotelli has vowed to walk off the pitch if he is subjected to racist abuse. Are these really the kind of statements on which European football wants to arrive at its flagship tournament?

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