I don't know who’s going to win Euro 2012. It seems to be a choice between four. I will force myself to go down to the bookies tomorrow and put a bet on. I might even use that Paddy Power online account I opened a year ago but have never yet used.back
But more can be lost at this tournament than won as the reputation of the sport is at stake. Already some families of English players Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott have said they are not going to travel and some Dutch players have been targeted by the Krakow crowd in training. If I hear the vile chants on my telly this will be the first major tournament I will turn my back on.
Awarding tournaments to two nations will be increasingly common, but UEFA have got to pick carefully. Big tournaments can act as a spur to big infrastructure improvements in host countries like the inspired choice of South Africa by FIFA. Let's hope the same is true of Poland and Ukraine.
But it's not the bridges and railways that make me worry - it's attitudes. I'm sure most Poles and Ukrainians deplore racism but too many who go to football matches don't. Some of their clubs are rallying points for racists and this tournament should not be added to that list. So UEFA must act.
There are some who still claim that sport and politics don't mix; well they always have done and always will. It's just a fact of life. We should accept it and indeed celebrate the power of sport to influence societies. Football has shaped attitudes for generations be it in South Africa, Central America or in post-civil war Spain. Football can help to shine a light on societies and governments even today, as they have done in Ukraine, leading to the Government making the right decision to boycott this competition’s group stages in protest at the selective justice being given to Yulia Tymoshenko.
To borrow the question famously posed by Lenin’s pamphlet (that’s Vladimir Lenin the Russian revolutionary, not Neil Lennon the Celtic manager), 'What is to be done?' is the usual response to challenging racism in sport. What can make a difference to the threat of racism so late in the day? There is no genteel way to do this; it may require an unprecedented response. Here's a couple of suggestions, and before anyone asks whether this is Labour Party policy the answer is no, these are just my views on my blog.
If home fans in either country misbehaves during one of their games the teams should be taken off by the referee then the home team forfeits the points. Alternatively, in other matches if the Poles or Ukrainian fans get involved in mass racist chanting then the home team should play their next game behind closed doors. I accept that such a move would punish visiting fans so only the supporters with tickets for the away end would be let into the stadium. Poland or Ukraine would be playing at home but it would feel like an away game.
Another idea might be that if any team’s fans are guilty of racial abuse all 11 players on their team will start the next game on a yellow card. Some may say that’s aimed at the wrong target but it would undoubtedly act as a massive disincentive to potentially abusive fans and would give the team an added reason to challenge their own support in the way that Pat Nevin confronted his own Chelsea fans in the 1980s.
It is often suggested that football has sold it soul due to increased commercialism, but this could be the tournament which proves it has lost its conscience. Regardless of the punishments it can't wait until after the tournament. That will change nothing.