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Race campaigners successfully used sport in their fight to help stamp out the British National Party in the run-up to the 2010 elections, a new report has found.

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Hundreds of youths played football in the Hope Not Hate Cups in Dagenham put on by anti-fascist group Searchlight, making a stand against racism before the general and local elections.

Searchlight then continued to expose the BNP’s extremist agenda, as Nick Griffin launched his failed bid to oust the Labour MP for Barking, Margaret Hodge, and seize control of Barking and Dagenham Council.

The anti-fascist group group also worked on the Gascoigne estate in Barking, raising awareness of race and identity issues by showing young people films about the Holocaust and helping Kosovan youths integrate.

The three-year drive helped to change attitudes towards race, dispelled negative views about asylum seekers and instilled new ones about identity, according to a report by the equality charity Trust for London, which funded the projects in the borough.

A Searchlight spokesman said: “We’re very proud the Hope Not Hate campaign was able to play a role in turning back the tide of extremism in Barking and Dagenham.

“But the real credit goes to the ordinary men and women who turned out in large numbers to decisively reject the BNP’s agenda of prejudice and division.”

Searchlight put on two football tournaments at Dagenham Town Show in Central Park.

The first Hope Not Hate Cup drew 100 players in 2008, then 200 joined the tournament the following year.

A further 200 youths took part in an anti-racism sports day at Dagenham Park School in School Road in 2008.

Jon Cruddas, the Labour MP for Dagenham and Rainham, attended the sports day.

He said: “I am a massive supporter of the work of Searchlight. Their work here in Barking and Dagenham with all sections of the community – in the schools, on the streets, football, boxing, celebrating St George’s Day and many other examples has been fantastic.

“They confront extremism in whatever form it takes and deal with it in precisely the same way – a story of hope not hate.”

Dagenham Park school deputy headteacher Trevor Irving added: “This collaborative exercise was enjoyed by all and demonstrated the benefits of living and working in a multicultural community.”

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