Racism in Football
The problem of racism in football is being desribed by many as “endemic”.
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Racism in football
The ill judged act of defiance by members of the Liverpool team who are role models to many aspiring young footballers is tantamount to condoning racism within the sport. Likewise the lack of regard for the huge international following, which brings in lucrative revenue streams for the club (Chelsea £209.5m and Liverpool £184.5m), shows that footballers expect to be economically remunerated but fail to exercise their social and moral responsibility to their fellow-players and followers.
The failure of leadership at both the national and international level first hit the headlines late last year when the FIFA Board failed to fire the Association’s president, Sepp Blatter suggesting that victims should just shake hands with their abusers and get on with playing the game.
JUST condemns the failure of both Chelsea and Liverpool football clubs, for appearing to condone the alleged racism of Suarez and Terry by failing to conduct their own independent investigation. JUST supports the call by Peter Herbert from the Society of Black Lawyers’ (SBL), to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) urging that they treat the Suarez affair as a racist incident, in line with the response to the John Terry case.
“To our knowledge, neither club has bothered to conduct its own independent investigation or hold a disciplinary hearing. If such serious allegations of racism had been made in the workplace, any reasonable employer would consider itself to be under a strict duty to conduct a full, detailed and impartial investigation into the allegations, and not simply to state that they stand behind the denials of the player concerned.
The punitive effects of racism are felt by thousands of people in Britain each day. The response of the Football Association (FA) and the CPS must be robust to protect others from the humiliation, pain and suffering that this type of hate crime inflicts. There is no reason why Suarez should not face criminal charges. When individual football clubs and fellow players – both black and white – endorse this kind of behaviour, they themselves become part of the problem because they stand in the way of the total eradication of racism from the sport. Their denial and appeasement reflects an abdication of their role as responsible players or employers.”
Whilst JUST agrees that progress has been made over the last few decades in trying to combat racism, as Sir Alex Ferguson puts out on the Kick It Out website: “The situation today is better than it was 20 years ago, and 20 years ago it was better than 30 years ago,” clearly there is still some way to go.
In the face of a spate of racist incidents over the last few months, Lord Herman Ouseley, the most influential and respected anti-racist campaigner in English football, deliberated whether to quit the FA Council. His decision was dependent on the outcome of the investigation into the England captain, John Terry’s alleged abuse of Anton Ferdinand. Lord Ouseley said:
“Whether or not I have had enough of it all will depend on what happens next. The important issue here is that we have made great strides and progress over the last decade and a half in challenging unacceptable and racist behaviour and we are all very keen to maintain that momentum. It must go on beyond this incident and ensure we set the standards that must not be breached in the future. What is done on that score will determine what I do next.”
As Lord Ouseley contemplates his future in the organisation, the human cost of those who are at the receiving end of racist comments is clear from the testimony of John Barnes who faced racism on a daily basis, not just from opposing supporters but also from his own team in the dressing room, on the training pitch and the canteen.
“In training you would get abuse from your own team-mates. They would call you racial names. ‘Eh, nigger.’ I would think, ‘Oh, whatever.’ It’s incomprehensible to people, but this was part of society.”
The emotional impact of racism was clearly evident last week when Oldham’s footballer Tom Adeyemi, was reduced to tears when he was racially abused twice by a supporter during a match against Liverpool. A witness reported hearing a fan shout, “You fucking black bastard.” Other witnesses reported seeing two fans wearing t-shirts of Luis Suarez, mirroring the actions of Liverpool players after their team mate was found guilty of racism.
Tackling racism is more important than any player or any club can ever be, given its wide appeal in society. It is therefore incumbent on players to uphold the highest standards. As a start the leadership within football associations should ensure that their teams are given appropriate anti-racism training outlining what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour or conduct. Racist jokes or names should not be tolerated and managers must be trained adequately on dealing with such behaviour when it occurs. Furthermore those in a position of leadership must take appropriate and swift action with those involved in racist incidents. In this context it is vital that justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done. When individual football clubs and fellow players – both black and white – encourage and endorse racist behaviour, they themselves become part of the problem because they stand in the way to eliminating racism from the sport and society at large.
Facts of Note
2. The overall number of racist incidents recorded by the police in England and Wales in 2010/11 was 51,187. A ‘racist incident’ is any incident, including any crime, which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.
3. In the 2008/09 season there were 36 arrests for racist chanting at football matches in England and Wales, a rise from the previous season’s tally of 23
4. Ten years ago you were 5 to 6 times more likely to be stopped & searched by police if you were black than white. Now the overall rate is about 7 times more likely.
5. The changing demographic profile of the population inside youth jails in England and Wales also shows an increasing proportion of young Muslims, up from 13% last year to 16%.
6. Young black men now account for nearly 40% of the population of youth jails in England and Wales
7. Between 2007 and 2011 there was a 37% reduction in white children in custody, compared with a 16% reduction in black and ethnic minority children.
8. Black people of all ages are three times more likely to be arrested than white people.
9. Black people constitute 2.7 percent of the population aged 10-17, but represent 8.5 percent of all those arrested in England and Wales.
10. Black people are just over six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people.
11. Black young offenders are significantly less likely to be given unconditional bail compared to white young offenders and black young offenders are more likely to be remanded in custody compared to white reoffenders.
12. Black people and young people of mixed ethnicity, when sentenced, are more likely to receive more punitive sentences than young white people.
13. In the three years to 2009, there was a 164% increase in the use of stop and search powers.
14. Allegations of racism against the Police up by 32% in four years.