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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 June, 2004, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
England's rising ethnic fanbase
Duncan Walker
BBC News Online in Lisbon

England fans with cardboard Wayne Rooneys in Portugal
While most England fans are white males, diversity is on the rise
Walking among England fans in Portugal it does not take long to realise English football remains a predominately white, male sport.

But anti-racism campaigners say Euro 2004 has seen a noticeable increase in the number of black and Asian supporters among the 60,000 following the team.

"The first fans I saw were a group of 10 to 15 Asian lads who were draped in the flag of St George - I thought 'wow'," said Leon Mann, of the Kick It Out campaign.

Campaigners believe the trend is set to continue, particularly if the football authorities tackle remaining signs of prejudice - including racist chants and banners.

"No fans have been racist to me, I have been in bars for all the games and have found myself hugged and covered in beer, just like anyone else," said Ashley Battie, from Dover, Kent.

Ashley Battie with son Ryan, 2
Ashley Battie says he has never had racial abuse from fans
"It's a shame that some people feel they could be targeted by idiots," said Mr Battie, who is on holiday in the Algarve resort of Albufeira, with his wife Jody and children, Ryan, 2, and Ti-ya, 6.

With Ryan in a replica England shirt and his dad in red, white and blue, there is no suggestion they feel the need to keep a low profile.

"It's never been an issue for me, including at the England games I have been to," said Mr Battie.

Under-represented

Leon Campbell, 30, from Ipswich, is also encouraged by the reaction of other fans, during his first tournament with England.

"I thought there may be something like shouting at the black players, but there was nothing" he said.

Nevertheless, he is very much aware black and Asian fans are not as well-represented at Euro 2004 as they are in society as a whole.

Leon Campbell in Portugal
England fan Leon Campbell says tag of racist fans is not true
On the Algarve, where many people are staying between matches, the crowd is almost exclusively white, with few ethnic minority fans to be found.

"England carry that tag of having racist supporters, but I have found that's not true," said Mr Campbell.

Despite the positive experiences of Mr Battie and Mr Campbell, others are concerned that prejudice remains a problem.

Positive mood

On more than one occasion England supporters have racially abused black Portuguese people and supporters of other teams.

Some songs in the fans' repertoire - such as "No surrender to the IRA" and "10 German bombers" - remain jingoistic, politically incorrect and offensive to some.

"It just shows how little education there is around the issue of these songs and racism," said Mr Mann.

The Kick It Out campaign is working with a pan-European group, Fare, to tackle such problems during Euro 2004.

We're not there yet, but there's a definite increase since Euro 2000 and black and Asian fans are being encouraged to get involved in a mass way
Leon Mann
Kick It Out Campaign
Members have taken photos of fans in offensive t-shirts, including one which said "England - no asylum seekers".

They have also reported Croatian supporters to Uefa for having racist banners and have asked for stewards to demand they are taken down in future.

But the mood remains positive, with the hope that travelling football supporters will soon be fully representative of those who follow the sport at home.

"We're not there yet, but there's a definite increase since Euro 2000 and black and Asian fans are being encouraged to get involved in a mass way," said Mr Mann.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Julia Botfield
"For some Asians this is a thorny issue"




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