Women in Sport

Fact Sheet 7 | Racism & Fascism

'They came for the Communists, and I didn't object for I wasn't a Communist...' 'They came for the Socialists, and I didn't object for I wasn't a Socialist...' 'They came for the trade unionists, and I didn't object - for I wasn't a trade unionist...' 'They came for the Jews, and I didn't object for I wasn't a Jew...' 'Then they came for me - and there was no one left to object.'

- Martin Niemoller, German Protestant Pastor, 1892-1984

Racist chants on the terraces at football matches have been an issue in football for many years and football grounds have been a favourite place for fascist groups to recruit new members. Kevin Keegan remembers walking into a football ground once and being handed a leaflet with a picture of an ape on it, which said "Would you like these people to have your job?".

This was a leaflet probably produced by a fascist group, like the National Front or the British National Party, who were targeting that ground and who were using racist ideas to promote their party. However, not everyone who is a racist is also a fascist. So what's the difference?

What is racism?

Racism is the belief that because people are a different colour, or from a different country that they are inferior. It can take many forms. For example, it is racist to deny a black or Asian person a job simply on the basis of the colour of their skin.

What is fascism?

    Did you know?


    • 60 Irish people died fighting fascism in the Spanish Civil War 1936-39

    • The Ireland V England friendly game was called off in 1995 due to riots instigated by neo- fascist group Combat 18 (18 so called after Adolf Hitler's initials sequence of the alphabet)

    • When Hitler gained power, he dissolved parliament and sent those he blamed for Germany's economic collapse - the Jews, homosexuals, gypsies and Trade Unionists - to the concentration camps. As a result, millions died before and during World War 2.

Fascism is a much wider set of ideas. Fascists want to get rid of democracy and replace is with a dictatorship that can crush any opposition. Fascists will use the prejudices that are widely held about particular groups of people to advance their ideas.

Support for fascist parties often increases during a recession, or when unemployment increases and when divisions in society widen. Fascism was particularly popular in the 1920s and 1930s, when fascist parties held power in Italy under Mussolini, between 1922 and 1943, and in Germany under Hitler, between 1933 and 1945. Both used racist and nationalist ideas to increase their support.

Racism is a very powerful force, which is why fascist groups make use of it to boost their support. In Ireland there are no fascist parties but in Europe neo-fascist parties include the British National Party, National Alliance in Italy, and the National Front amongst others. They target minority groups of members, the main groups they target are black and Asian people.

For example, fascists will try to make use of the fears of white people about not having a job or somewhere to live, by spreading scare stories about "floods" of black refugees and immigrants into Britain, rather than directing people's attention towards the government and people in power, and asking them for answers to the problems people worry about.


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