England football fans travelling to Euro 2012 were warned to watch out for about right-wing hooligans, racism and corrupt police.
Amnesty International, the human rights charity, said the dangers – coupled with high passions and alcohol – make for a potential “firecracker” waiting to explode.
The warning came as the brother of black England midfielder Theo Walcott tweeted that he and his father will not be flying out to support the star because of “possible racist attacks”.
Max Tucker, Amnesty International’s Ukraine campaigner, said: “Fans and families visiting Ukraine for Euro 2012 have good cause to be concerned about their safety – particularly those of a racial minority.
“As if ultra-right football hooligans weren’t enough to contend with, visitors will need to be on the lookout for a corrupt and brutal police force known to target individuals because of their skin colour.”
England will play all three of their group matches against France, Sweden and joint hosts Ukraine in the eastern European country, but their base for the tournament will be in neighbouring Poland, the other host nation.
Mr Tucker said in a recent incident drunken officers took it in turns to beat an ethnic Azerbaijani man with batons for several hours while shouting racial abuse at him.
“Europeans accustomed to a different style of policing will come face-to-face with a force designed to enforce obedience to the state,” Mr Tucker added.
“Police are rarely held accountable for their actions so it is little surprise that they torture, extort and assault as they please. Add high passions and alcohol to the mix and you have a firecracker waiting to go off. Ukraine urgently needs a new system to rein in this out-of-control force.”
Ashley Walcott, Theo’s older brother, posted to his Twitter page on Wednesday: “Unfortunately my dad n i have taken the decision not to travel to the Ukraine because of the fear of possible racist attacks confrontations. Something’s aren’t worth risking, but begs the question why hold a competition of this magnitude in a place that can not police itself for foreigners of any creed to feel safe, but I’ll be watching every minute (sic).”
He added: “Racism has no place in the modern world.”
Football pundit Chris Kamara is not concerned hooliganism and racism will blight the tournament, but said the “highest sanctions” should be available if fans turn to violence.The black former player and manager said the world is now different from the early days of his career when racism was “fully acceptable”.
He said: “I’m not concerned at all, because of the fact that we went to South Africa under the same threat, and people said people in Johannesburg and Cape Town weren’t going to come out alive. But they embraced the World Cup. So I think Poland and Ukraine hopefully will embrace the Euros.”
The 54-year-old, who is starring in the Football Association’s official song for Euro 2012, Sing 4 England, said: “We live in a world now where it (racism) is unacceptable. I lived in a world when I started playing football where it was fully acceptable and people played on that.
“Whereas now, it’s unacceptable in the world that we live in, it’s unacceptable at football matches and the highest sanctions will be levelled at these people.”