How Football Became A Political Tool in Poland


In 2004, the Republic of Poland joined the
EU, and was recognised as one of the world’s most
promising democracies. Fast forward 15 years, though, and Poland is controlled by PiS, a
right-wing nationalist political party that has won the
presidency, the majority in parliament, and used its newfound
power to seize Polish courts, silence the Polish media, and openly rebel against the
EU. How did a country make such a dramatic U-turn
in such a short space of time? A less discussed mechanism has been through
the exploitation of the native football supporters in
Poland. Football in the region has never had a fan-friendly
culture. Professor Rafał Chwedoruk, a political scientist from the University of Warsaw, remarked
to Open Democracy that, unlike in Germany, where
football was brought to the masses after the industrial revolution, “such a thing in
a much less developed Poland was impossible.”
This, combined with the chaotic state of the country after the second World War meant that
football never the developed deep social roots that
facilitated its rise in other parts of Europe and South America.
This doesn’t mean that football is unpopular in Poland, as the sport eventually became
widespread across the country in the mid 20th century.
However, the lack of a deep public connection to football
carried over to the structure of the Ekstraklasa, the Polish football league.
Unlike the association model in Germany, where fans play a central role, every club in the
Ekstraklasa acts as a joint stock company, in which private
investors hold all the leverage over a particular club.
This has led to repeated cases of corruption, bankruptcy, and even the use of public government
funds for football clubs. The entire sport of football
in Poland ultimately became a money making exercise
driven by market interests. This model obviously outraged fans, and a
protest culture amongst supporters developed. Throughout
the 1990s, football stadiums in Poland were pocked by hooliganism. But these protests
weren’t benign, and have allowed right wing nationalists in
Poland to take ideological grip on the same fans.
Essentially, the Ekstraklasa symbolized what various rural Polish citizens resented about
their country: it was a corrupt and elitist institution simply
trying to earn money at the expense of the working people of
Poland. This, in combination with more complex political issues, made football stadiums a
prime place of protest, turning them into an incubating
hub for extremism. As many football supporters in Poland came
from working-class or rural backgrounds, right-wing nationalists were able to use the distaste
for the corporate structure of domestic football as a political
tool to expand right-wing support. A tipping point was reached before the 2012
Euros. As Poland were co-hosting the tournament, it was
imperative that the issue was resolved before the competition started. Consequently, the
Ekstraklasa and the Polish Football Association raised ticket
prices across all football stadiums across the country.
The supporting theory was rooted in economics: Poland’s social structure has always been
composed of two vastly different classes: a poorer, rural
lower class and a wealthy upper class. However, there was a
strong belief in Poland that the number of middle and upper middle class citizens would
increase in the 21st century due to an improving economy.
Many also believed that the 2012 Euros would contribute to
this expansion of the middle class. Increasing ticket prices, it was reasoned, would change
the demographics inside stadiums, enable a higher
number of upper or middle class people to attend football
stadiums at the expense of the more traditional, rural supporter.
But that never truly occurred as anticipated. As such, raising ticket prices only strengthened
the resolve of the nationalists. They were able to tighten
their grip on football supporters, and used the initiatives to
demonstrate how football institutions in Poland didn’t care about the lower class, adding
apparent credibility to their divisive and xenophobic
rhetoric, and further driving their political agenda.
Now, as PiS and the nationalists have continued to gain power in Poland, football supporters
remain the principal losers. Once exploited by money
hungry companies, they are now being used as pawns in a
political movement that threatens Poland’s stability.

100 thoughts on “How Football Became A Political Tool in Poland

  1. Football had been a political tool. The UK and US are currently using it to promote LGBT rights. Sports will always be tied to some sort of propoganda

  2. What an nonsense,
    – No PIS is not right wing
    – No it did not seaze courts, what they are doing with courts is the very reason they were elected – courts were and still are part of what we call mafia state created by PO that is flooded with commies where they could steal, kick thousands of pepole from their homes, create illegal tax evasion system that was under protection of those courts, money laundring, theft of public money on nation wide scale, they created one of most corrupted state not to be seen in Polish history. You have basicly way more politicly driven courts in Germany not to mention media and nobody gives a shit.
    – You have more free media in Poland becouse what we had before is onesided politicly controlled media. Now you atleast have opposition to overwhelming far left wing stations that is national tv that show diffrent view. THAT IS FREE MEDIA, not one sided paid off narratives.
    You have absolutley no idea what are you talking about.

  3. I live in Poland, and I’ll be honest football here is dead… people don’t care about football, they rather watch volleyball or ski jump rather than football… it’s shocking

  4. Evidence of “xenophobic rhetoric” is always needed when stated, I don’t care where we’re talking about.

  5. I have an impression that this clip is not objective. Tickets prices were increased before Euro 2012? I'm sorry, but that's a BS. All clubs decided for themselves how high is it to watch their games live. And you didn't mention really important factor – Ekstraklasa level is really low, and this is why so called "middle class" is not so interested in it. I'm quite sure that you either didn't make a proper research ot just someone wanted you to publish such an opinion about the ruling political party – obviously, just to critisize it for nothing.

  6. I am sorry. PiS is a left wing, socialist party. I do not think there is a right wing mainstream party in Poland.
    Football in Poland has not been rooted deeply in the society as after the Second World War the clubs were used by the communistic agenda to infiltrate local communities and spread the communistic vision of the world.
    There were two types of clubs in Poland.
    1) CLubs governed by the state – various departments governed different clubs e.g the army controlled WKS Śląsk, CWKS Legia. The militia controlled Wisła Kraków. The clubs used their political connections and power to 'contract' the best players. This is why Legia (central government department) built their competitive advantage among other clubs. The players were offered a contract with the club as a 'soldier' released of his duties or they were forced to serve a regular service as soldiers which would end their careers. The central department used Legia as a flagship to demonstrate the power of communism. It was the club every Pole was supposed to love and worship :).
    2) Clubs like Cracovia, Lechia, Polonia Warszawa – due to their long patriotic traditions were facing political and administrative repercussions form the state.

    Poland after Second World War has never been right-wing. Never.

    The indication of 1990's acts of hooliganism has its roots in the collapse of communistic power. At those times, people used weakness of the state (time of political reconstructions) to demonstrate years of anger, resentment towards repressive militia (now known as police). Every game was a 'medieval clash' between the fans and militia.

    Polish football supporters are known for independent thinking but it does not make them right wing fascists. There are no symbols on the stadiums that support right wing mentality (if there ar, please…indicate where.)

    Last but not least. Definition of being right wing depends on the country. The values of right wing mentality differs from country to country. If you want to jump to mainstream conclusion and believe Nazis / Germans were right wing…please check again. Especially their programme and the meaning of the word Nazi. And then compare it to the ideology of 'right wing'

    Please verify your sources and my suggestion is to use more sources to for critical analysis.

    Anyway. Thank you for a very interesting material. I understand it needs to be concise but there are many other aspects considering tickets prices, average attendances which would make the material much longer.

  7. Jeez, It's like if no one can criticize Poland in any way, shape or form without getting fucking attacked by salty Poles. I'm half Polish aswell (although I consider myself Irish), and to be honest I kind of agree. Hooliganism especially is a complete mess. I think a Cracovia/Wisła fan getting stabbed by a Wisła/Cracovia fan happens more often than in places like Milan, Istanbul etc.

  8. Tifo – u have NO IDEA whatsoever about political situation in Poland (especially 'silencing' polish media thing – ffs!). R material is full propaganda inspired by i do not know who. Focus on football pls.

  9. Poland has one of the best regimes in Europe right now. Cardinal Sarah is absolutely right: you guys are Catholic and Polish first. Don't give in to the bullies of technocratic Europe.

  10. Ah yes… This is why I am such a fan of umaxit. You guys don't shy away from the difficult topics, love the video.

  11. A lot of people are commenting that this is fake or inaccurate, could someone please explain what in particular is inaccurate for me?

  12. Fucking hell Im rarely on the same page as PiS but that intro was really reaching to make it look like Poland is runned by nazis or something.

  13. The situation is similar in Romania with the clubs being privately owned by rich men. Not inherently wrong but one club, Galati, won the league and 2 years later, after the owner cashed in on the UCL payments, stopped paying wages and went into bankruptcy. This has happened repeatedly.

  14. I mean i dont wanna be that Polish guy that always defends his country but… the video is mostly wrong, only the political part tho. Poland is one of the best countries to express your opinion, PiS controls 1 tv station (TVP) but most of the tv stations are against them. There are democratic elections and PiS support has went down in recent times.

  15. Really hating how these opinionated videos keep popping up on this channel. Please guys, keep your own personal agendas to yourselves. We don't know the actual story behind what's going on in poland so it's best keep out of their business.

  16. This is western propganda, we just dont want islamic terror like they had in UK, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Denmark or Finland. Slavic people will understand 🙂

  17. Football supporters was never political tool in Poland, plenty of hooligans and supporters are against PiS and opposition like PO, PSL etc.
    This video was made in similiar way, just a like Polish left-wing media will do their materials.

  18. Economic interventionism isn't right-wing. Soooo tired of hearing the Europe propagandists conflate everything they disagree with into "right-wing." Then they refuse to actually engage with the issues that make people skeptical of the EU. Like how a bureaucracy out of touch with people can pass Article 13. PiS could fairly be called socially populist conservative. Mildly Eurosceptic. And economically center-left populists. I suppose that's to the right of most of Europe. But then these were nations who had their sovereignty stripped by outside coercion. So perhaps they're correct to be more cautious of such interventionism.

  19. You may be great at analysing football tactics, but your politcal videos are really biased and full of utter nonsense

  20. A lot of fake news here mate. Please stick to football not politics like the introduction, basically the first 40 sec of this vid is rubbish.

    Our football fans would cry out of laughter if they heard that they are fans or controlled by the PiS.

    Either do a better research before you repeat fake news propaganda or simply avoid political spheres and topics in which you have no knowledge.

    Dramatic "U" turn?😂 we were just counted among 25 developed economies, we grow faster than anyone in Europe, our culture and country are florushing and you make it sound like some kind of Fascists are ruling the country.

    Btw our government is not right wing, they are something between centro-socialist traditionalists. Nothing to do with right wing ideologies whatsoever.

  21. The truth about this video is that it gets into a lot of complex issues for 4 mins. There is bits of truth but no context and actually this notion is a few years out of date. There were some strong links after certain actions but not under the new PM. Comparing Poland's ownership to the German ownership rather than the rest of the EU is disingenuous also, most owners want to make money and owners who bankrupt clubs make fans angry everywhere. I will have to be a bit more suspicious of future video because until now I have just watched and believed.

  22. You can only consider it a U turn if you are a stupid liberal. You can be a right wing Democracy.
    This channel is run by regressive Europhiles.

  23. > PiS right-wing.
    The only right-wing thing about PiS is their conservatism.
    > Silence the media.
    Okay, this meme has to just FUCKIN STOP. State TV is worse than usual, sure. But we have healthy and diverse private media landscape. Oh, and they tried (and failed) to fine one TV station. With a very modest fine. Woe is me.

    > Everything…
    This video is trying to fit the reality into a thesis. Yes, football supporters organized politically a bit. But there's one main and clear reason for that:
    An open war waged against them by PO governenment pefore Euro 2012. An open war that included rather famous 8 month-long illegal political arrest.

  24. Very Biased. I expect political neutrality from this channel. I get enough of biased media, from the left especially, that I don't want to see it on a football channel also. Very disappointed.

  25. The level of research and data presented in this video is somewhere between anti-vaxers video and Miss Universe talking about the world peace. Flatearthers are often more accurate and close to the truth than autors of this bullshit. Please stick to the football and leave politics out of your videos.

  26. As far as I disagree with everything PiS does, I gotta agree with people here, this vid is not as well researched as usual, you took a few shortcuts in describing the political situation, e.g. media and referring to PiS simply as right-wing, they act more like communists – high on nationalism but also poorly using socialist tactics; judical and anti-EU movements are spot on though, not "controversial" as some people here say, we're steering towards Turkey in that regard.

    Moreover, the issue with hooligans is how deeply connected they are with mob/mafia (whatever you call it) and how much of influence they have over clubs, despite clubs being owned privately. This is a topic for a video that would be significantly more relevant. Them being a political issue is a problem as well, but don't think it's as much of an issue as of now, they were somewhat played in recent years though.

    I hope this is just one off vid, as I've been watching pretty much of your vids and thoroughly enjoyed them. Never thought I'd have to dislike one of your vids.

  27. So this channel is just left wing political activism now? No thanks. You had a good channel, maybe the best football channel on youtube, but now it's gone. Good luck with your echo chamber.

  28. This used to be a football channel. Now that you showed us your political allegiance can you please talk less about politics and more about football please?

  29. This is the first largely false video I’ve seen from you guys, and know I doubt past content I’ve watched due to the falsehoods in these last two videos. Pushing left extreme rhetoric is just as bad as grasping to shame right wing extremes.

  30. I don't see anything wrong with being proud of your nation and culture. Why shouldn't you be proud of where you are from? Whether you are Polish, Japanese, Colombian, American, Israeli, Belgian, Egyptian, etc., shouldn't you be able to take pride in that? Without sectionalism, what allegiances would we have? Without culture, how would we interact with others in society? Applying that to the football world: Should we do away with the World Cup? The Euros? International football in general? Should players be allowed to play for any national team they wish, regardless of whether or not they have a connection to that nation? If nationalism is a crime, how can anyone morally justify supporting their national team? At a club level, I understand that football is a global sport, and that clubs in the top leagues have supporters from all across the globe, of which I am one, and have many different revenue streams available to them. However, the vast majority of clubs derive most of their support from locals who pay to attend matches. Even top flight clubs, with the exception of the Juventuses and Manchester Uniteds of the world, count local supporters as a significant portion of their fanbase. Other clubs have supporters that generally share some sort of cultural tie, be it ethnic (Atletic Bilbao), sectarian (Celtic, Rangers), or political (St. Pauli, Livorno). Should we abandon allegiances to any club? What then would drive our passion for the sport? I understand that we all want to see beautiful football, but we all have different definitions for that as well.

  31. Im saddened, deeply, by Tifo. I was, or am, a big fan of your channel and videos. But the typical mistakes you made while reporting on poland, or at least its politics, are really unnecessary. PiS is far far away from being right wing, they do not overshadow or control the whole media, they just own polands most known tv channel, TVP. Although the things you said about ekstraklasa are true, and the fact that football prosperity isnt as bright as in countries like germany and france comes down to the fundamentals, that you also mentioned. This video couldve been great and informing, if you at least had removed the bit about politics and right wing blablabla. I suggest removing this video, maybe making a video about ekstraklasas flaws, or generally informing yourself through different sources that you find on the internet.
    Sincere greetings

  32. Walk around the streets of Paris or London. Then walk around the streets of Warsaw or Krakow. Now tell me how evil those right-wingers are.

  33. Conservative (right wing) Pole here who does not support PiS and it is ashamed what they do in Poland. I am also big football fan. Seems to me that you don't know anything about current situation in Poland, because this video is just bullshit. Maybe you relied on fake news and propaganda about Poland and football fans here or maybe you just wanted to make your own piece of propaganda.

  34. It's funny how throughout this video everyone was talked of in a bad light except those who raised ticket prices to disenfranchise a particular demographic

  35. Law and Justice are barely conservatives, and you talk about them as fascists, the fascists don't even get to the electoral threshold. PiS is not Fidesz, stop lying.

  36. A video about a corruption in Romania, please? My country had one of the best teams in Europe and now we are ashamed to go and play! From the '86 CL Steaua winner, to '89 Steaua CL finalist, to 2005 Europa League quater final between Steaua and Rapid, to a semifinal Steaua Middlesbrough, to the CFR Cluj that beat Roma and Manchester United, to the Unirea Urziceni that won the title, played CL, holded the record for the most points in groups for Romania and then disappeared, to Otelul Galati that won the title and now doesn't exists,to Rapid Bucuresti that is now in the third league football, to Vaslui that battled for 2 championships and then obviously disappeared to a 2012 campaign where Steaua beat Ajax, Chelsea and to Astra that beat Lyon and West Ham ( two campaigns ). Now we are struggling to get out of a Europa League group. The last campaign was embarrassing, the champions CFR got smashed but Dudelange with 5-2.. our last good match in Europe was when FCSB beat Lazio 1-0. Then they bringed the first team and beat us 5-1 on Olimpico..

  37. Awfull video! You should perhaps research before you make mistakes after mistakes like this.

  38. PiS is no right-wing. It's a hybrid of nationalist – socialism. And to be honest it was 20-30 years ago. In Germany and primarily in Italy the corrupcy and money making by seria A clubs was bigger than in Poland.

  39. Hahaha 😀 PiS is nationalistic party (all nationalist get heart attack now) Did they silent the media ? the state media controlled by previous political party 😉 This thesis about football supporters is completely absurdal. There are many reasons but main I suppose are: (1) For 25 years since communism "ended" (1989) there was only neoliberal direction in politics, (2) people are angry that all national industry was sold to Western countries and (3) internet showed that there are diffrent perspectives than neoliberal (almost all media had the same worldview). and internet users are now able to check the facts and quality of presented interpretations in particular media

  40. I'm sorry,but I would advise you to stick to football subjects as you totally fail to give a true picture of the situation in political situation in Poland. And of course tifo acts like being objective which might be true in commenting football tactics, but it is not clear to me how do you gathered information regarding this subject and on what behalf are you formulating this various claims.

  41. Law and Justice (PiS) are an elected government. They can't silence the media. They don't rebel against the EU, they simply don't swallow all of the rubbish about harbouring so many migrants as to create a housing crisis and destroy the culture a country has been through so much to create. The Poles aren't Communist and aren't repulsed by corporations. I've been there twice and there's plenty of trade and its enjoyed. They like Law and Justice because they're patriotic and respect its religious and cultural values. They have zero terrorism and generally the streets are well policed. They're not an illiberal party and they're not the ruin of Poland. And yes they're part of the EU for money, nothing else, but frankly, this is the EU's flaw and not Poland's, and if it were to be less politically interfering perhaps the UK would never have decided to leave. People are nationalist because they're patriotic, not because they're exploited, and because the ideals of national identity are far stronger and more sentimental than class identity.

  42. Interesting video. I think it’s spot on. In 4 minutes it explains basic mechanisms of football and politics connection in Poland. Yes, PIS doesn’t control all media, but majority of people from rural areas and lower class watch only state owned media, which are controlled by PIS.

  43. This video is so stupid i cannot believe someone came up with it . I suggest banning this video as this is simply a lie . In Poland not too many people care AT ALL about football . Reason why you see this video is very simple . If Poland acted like third world contry , would tax its companies as high as possible and let companies from Germany , France or England with no tax at all we would be best friend of east europe . However when Poland is trying to protect its national interest we get into trouble . This is why this video is simply operessive propaganda . In fact many Polish people don't like PiS at all and would rather have goverment that would kick out from country media controlled by east and raise taxes from companies from the east . This is exactly what happens with Polish companies in east europe – look up latest legislations on truck drivers etc . I guess we would be called dictatorship .

  44. Great video like always. It's really important to show the connections between politics and football. Though I hope that you are not impressed by the triggered right wing Polish people in the comment section. PiS is right wing populism and a danger to the Polish democracy.

  45. after first 30 seconds:
    – stopped the video
    – thumb down
    – unsucscribe

    don't talk about politics, just keep with football

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