Read our full report.
Memorandum for DCMS Select Committee:
1. Executive Summary
1.1 Racism is still a very real issue both within football and wider society. In order to be successful, strategies to combat racism within sport need to encompass a holistic approach to the issue. This needs to include:
· Race-Equality audits of the policies and practices within sporting structures. With action plans developed to overcome areas of imbalance and inequality.
· Training for all employees from members of the board to players to enable them to be in a position to better tackle racism and promote equality.
· Clear, consistent, transparent procedures for dealing with players and fans who commit racially motivated offences.
· Clear, unambiguous messages from sporting clubs as to the expected behaviour of employees and spectators.
· Clear, unambiguous messages from government about the importance of promoting race-equality and tackling racism.
· Sporting clubs must clearly show that they reject the ideologies of far-right street movements, such as the EDL which try to use sport as a vehicle around which to organise and recruit.
· Wider programmes of anti-racism education in society, to address underlying prejudice rather than just preventing the expression of this prejudice within the sporting arena.
1.2 If we start excusing racism, we risk losing the valuable ground that has been gained, there are always people waiting to exploit issues to spread division and hate. Government, footballing institutions, communities and individuals need to send out a consistent message that racism is never acceptable.
2. Background to Show Racism the Red Card
2.1 Show Racism the Red Card is an anti-racism education charity which utilises the high profile of professional footballers as anti-racism role-models to educate against racism in society. The campaign has been very successful and now involves hundreds of top footballers and managers. Every season we work with over 60 football clubs as well as some rugby, cricket and basketball teams to produce resources and organise anti-racism events. Our educational resources include films, education packs, posters and magazines. As well as general anti-racism resources we have resources which deal with specific contemporary issues. Our main resources are:
- An anti-racism DVD and education pack: “Show Racism the Red Card”
- ‘A Safe Place’ deals with prejudice towards Asylum Seekers and Refugees
- DVD and Education Pack aimed at combatting Islamophobia
- “Out of Site” educates against prejudice towards Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities
- Our most recent resource “Rivals not Enemies” educates against religious intolerance and sectarianism
2.2 The campaign now has a national and international reach, with offices in North Tyneside, Glasgow, Cardiff and Bedford. As well as producing resources, we also organise and deliver:
- Programmes of direct anti-racism education with young people
- Teacher training
- Workplace training
- High profile anti-racism events with professional sporting clubs
- National schools competitions
- Community anti-racism festivals.
3. Current Situation
3.1 UK football has moved on a long way from the racist arena it provided in the 1970s and 1980s. When England players received racist abuse in Spain in 2004 it rightly caused outrage across the country and the experiences of footballers from black, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds and groups playing at the top level are far removed from the experiences that black footballers such as Luther Blissett, Gary Bennett and Leroy Rosenior, who now work with Show Racism the Red Card, went through during this period. Several factors have influenced this; the increase in number of footballers from black, Asian and other minority backgrounds, the advent of all-seater stadiums, which changed the atmosphere at games and meant that perpetrators were easier to identify, but also the conscious effort that has been made by the FA, PFA, football clubs and anti-racism campaigns to demonstrate that racism is unacceptable within football stadia; with bans and prosecutions implemented for fans and players engaging in this behaviour.
3.2 However, whilst there has been a change in behaviour at football matches, racist attitudes are still widely prevalent because racism remains a widespread problem in society. Show Racism the Red Card delivers programmes of anti-racism education to over 50,000 people every year and from our experience we know that many people have not had the opportunity to discuss issues of racism and many are confused and carry misinformation and prejudice. Many football clubs have done great work over the years both independently and with organisations such as Kick it Out and Show Racism the Red Card to help educate against racism and send out messages that the club supports anti-racism initiatives. However, this work is quickly undermined by a lack of action or dismissive words when an incident occurs.
3.3 There also remain wider issues of racism within football. For example, managers and board members from black and other minority ethnic backgrounds and groups are vastly under-represented. There are currently only 2 black managers across all 92 football clubs, despite the fact that around 25% of professional footballers in the UK are black. There is a perception amongst many that the under-representation of black managers is largely due to racism. Historically, theories were perpetuated that black people were naturally strong and athletic, whilst white people were naturally better thinkers and strategists. Through genetics, it is now clear that these theories are baseless. Humans cannot be divided into discreet categories and a person’s skin colour tells us nothing about their other abilities. However, many in society still believe this to be the case. Ex-professional Paul Mortimer who now works with the Show Racism the Red Card campaign speaks of managers who wouldn’t play him when it was cold as, despite him being born and brought up in South London, they felt that he could only play with the sun on his back. In 1991 Crystal Palace chair Ron Noades stated:
3.4 “The black players at this club lend the side a lot of skill and flair, but you also need white players in there to balance things up and give the team some brains and some common sense.”
3.5 The majority of board members of football clubs are white men and the recruitment processes are not transparent, with new managers sometimes being appointed within days of a previous manager’s departure. There may be a conscious or unconscious decision to appoint someone similar to themselves, and similar to coaches who have already achieved success, with well qualified black people being overlooked. Even when black people do secure jobs as managers, they may face racism and a lack of faith in their abilities. For example, when Gary Bennett became manager at Darlington FC he found that he was refused entry to the boardroom as the person on the door would not believe that he was the manager of the club. Once sacked from a position a black manager is less likely to be given another chance somewhere else.
3.6 Recent statements by several high profile figures have highlighted that there is a lack of awareness and understanding about issues of racism amongst many working in football. For example, the definition of a racist incident as set out by the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry is “any incident that is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person” (McPherson, 2000). The purpose of the definition is to remove the onus on the person in charge at the scene determining whether an incident is racist; to include unwitting and unintentional racism, which still has a damaging effect on the target and to include apparently victimless racism such as racist graffiti. However, many of those working in and around football have immediately dismissed accusations of racism prior to an investigation, issuing defences such as “I know him and he’s not racist” showing a lack of understanding that it is the action that is racist not the individual, "What happens on the pitch stays on the pitch" No it doesn't. Football is the most popular sport in the world and is watched by millions of people. Footballers do not have carte-blanche to abuse each other in whatever ways they see fit. Many young people are forced out of grass-roots football because of racist abuse and if we allow people to use racist language on the pitch then there is nothing to stop it from spilling over into other aspects of their lives, affecting their opinions and interactions with others. "The comment is not that bad and does no harm" Using someone's skin colour or ethnicity as an insult has a deeper effect. It implies that it is negative to be of that background and attacks something which is intrinsic to that person. It is an attack not just on the individual, but on other members of their family, community or group. When high-profile people act in this way it gives licence for others to copy-cat and creates a society where that behaviour is deemed acceptable. If we don't challenge racist language and insults, we are paving the way for some people to go on to commit more serious incidents of hate-crime. People who commit acts of hate crime believe that they are acting on behalf of and with the support of their community; it is up to all of us to demonstrate that this behaviour is unacceptable and not supported. "He meant nothing by it. It was just said in the heat of the moment" We have all had times where we are under pressure or angry and say things that we regret, that doesn’t make them excusable. Even if someone did not deliberately intend to cause harm, this doesn’t affect the outcome.
3.7 The FA’s thorough investigation and subsequent decision to impose an 8 game ban and £40,000 fine on Luis Suarez for racially abusing Patrice Evra demonstrates that the issue has been taken seriously by the authorities. However, Liverpool football club’s response, with the players wearing T-shirts in support of Suarez and manager Kenny Dalglish visibly backing the player saying he should not have been banned, was regrettable and has had an impact on fans reactions, with an increase in racist incidents inside the ground and Patrice Evra and other black commentators such as Stan Collymore being racially abused through other forums, such as Twitter.
3.8 Since its inception the EDL has sought to organise around football and use football as a vehicle to spread racist and Islamophobic ideology. The EDL seeks to gain credibility by linking the movement with football clubs; using official football club crests without permission in their literature. By utilising football in this way the EDL is attempting to bring credibility and high profile backing to a dangerous and overtly racist campaign. Show Racism the Red Card has countered the use of club crests throughout this period by working closely with the clubs to ensure that a clear statement is issued to disassociate the club from the EDL and to make clear that the Club does not endorse racism in any way. Upon learning of the unofficial use of the club crest, Swansea City issued the following statement:
3.9 “Swansea City abhors racism in any shape or form and would like to make it quite clear that the football club does not support or affiliate itself to this organisation, its campaign or any other group of this nature. Permission to use the club crest has certainly not been granted. The club has worked extremely hard over recent years to eradicate any form of racism from within its footballing family – and we will continue to do so.”
3.10 The EDL recently published a photograph of their leader Stephen Yaxley-Lennon posing with Premier League player Joey Barton, the picture appeared on the EDL Support Group Facebook page with the caption ‘Joey Barton joins the EDL’. Show Racism the Red Card contacted Queens Park Rangers FC and the player and club strongly deny any links with the far right extremists. Joey Barton agreed to conduct an interview at QPR’s training ground to demonstrate his stance against racism. The full statement from Queens Park Rangers Football Club reads as follows:
3.11 “Queens Park Rangers Football Club and Joey Barton categorically deny any link between the midfielder and a far-right group who are claiming his support. A photograph of Barton posing with a member of the group has been used to suggest the player is also a member. Barton said: “As a Premier League footballer it is common to pose for photographs with people you do not know, as is the case here. I had no idea who the person was. I simply agreed to his request for a photograph. I have absolutely no connection with such a group.”
3.12 If organisations such as this are allowed to use football as a base to recruit and assemble, it will create a threatening and racist atmosphere within and around these clubs.
4. Recommendations for Action
4.1 Race-Equality audits of the policies and practices within sporting structures. With action plans developed to overcome areas of imbalance and inequality. There needs to be a change in the culture of football clubs to ensure that the issue of institutional racism is explored with policies put in place to counter tackle racism and promote equality. It is impossible to develop a strategy to eradicate racism and promote equality within any institution unless there is an understanding of where the inequalities lie and methods to measure improvement once the strategy has been adopted. Therefore all football clubs need to conduct an audit which includes ethnic monitoring of staff and customers across all levels and equality impact assessments on their policies and procedures, both formal and informal. Once this has been conducted action plans can be developed to put processes in place to overcome issues of inequality. The NFL in America adopted the Rooney Rule in 2003. This requires clubs to interview at least one candidate from a black or other minority ethnic background or group for head coaching or other senior management posts. Since the rule’s adoption, the league has gone from having two black head coaches to eight and from one black general manager to five. Show Racism the Red Card is in favour of adopting a similar rule in the UK to begin to open doors to black and other minority ethnic managers, which may previously have been denied.
4.2 Training for all employees from members of the board to players, to enable them to be in a position to better tackle racism and promote equality. Educational programmes need to be expanded to ensure that everyone working within football; from the chairman, to the manager, to the stewards, receives high-quality and ongoing training which will enable them to:
o Understand the realities of racism and why racist behaviour is damaging
o Learn how to respond effectively to racist incidents
o Have any myths that they hold about “race” and racism exposed
o Learn about the correct terminology to use when discussing issues of “race” and racism
o Learn how to create an inclusive and equitable environment for co-workers, employees and supporters.
4.3 Clear, consistent, transparent procedures for dealing with players and fans who commit racially motivated offences. The footballing authorities need to clearly lay out their procedures for dealing with racism from players and fans. Any punishment needs to be accompanied by education, to ensure that the perpetrator fully understands the impact of their actions and why they were wrong. Punishment without education can just further breed resentment and will not deal with an individual’s prejudice and misinformation.
4.4 Clear, unambiguous messages from sporting clubs as to the expected behaviour of employees and spectators. Football clubs need to continue to engage with campaigns such as Show Racism the Red Card and send out consistent messages through messages in the programme, actions on the field, to organising anti-racism educational events in order to reach out to fans with the anti-racism message.
4.5 Clear, unambiguous messages from government about the importance of promoting race-equality and tackling racism. Outside of sport, the government needs to ensure that it adopts policy which is underpinned by social justice and does not allow negative false media discourse to dominate public and media debate.
4.6 Sporting clubs must clearly show that they reject the ideologies of far-right street movements, such as the EDL which try to use sport as a vehicle around which to organise and recruit. Clubs must issue statements whenever local far-right groups try to appropriate the club’s logo or supporter base in order to recruit and to condemn action which occurs within the vicinity of the ground as well as inside it.
4.7 Wider programmes of anti-racism education in society, to address underlying prejudice rather than just preventing the expression of this prejudice within the sporting arena. It is vital that programmes are in place to educate people against racism, counter acquired misinformation and empower people with knowledge and skills to address stereotyping, fear and prejudice picked up from the media, peers, family and friends. It will be impossible to truly rid football of racism, unless the wider societal issues are addressed.
5. Additional Reading
5.1 A copy of our recent research “The Barriers to Tackling Racism and promoting Equality in England’s Schools” can be downloaded free of charge here: http://www.theredcard.org/resources/publications?publication=2342
5.2 A response to Gus Poyet’s recent comments by ex-professional footballer and SRtRC education worker Paul Mortimer is available here: http://www.theredcard.org/news/news-and-events?news=2917
5.3 Our film “Racism and the Beautiful Game” can be viewed here: http://www.communitychannel.org/video/JEw5WBXOCMo/racism_and_the_beautiful_game/