By Vikram - Show Racism the Red Card Volunteer
Unfortunately, there have been a number of high profile racist incidents within football in recent times. While there has been significant progress since 1978 when Viv Anderson became the first black footballer to represent England, racism is still rife in football and there still is a long way to go before we are in a society where racism is near non-existent.
There are a number of high profile black footballers and a few football players from other minorities currently representing national sides in Britain, including Danny Rose and Dele Alli playing for England and Ashley Williams and Neil Taylor (whose Indian mother is Bengali) representing Wales. Thus, there are no legislative barriers stopping minorities representing the national sides in Britain. However, in relation to Asian footballers, there has been a shockingly few who currently play or who have previously played in the elite level of British football. As of April 2018, British South Asians make up seven per cent of the population within the United Kingdom but there have only eleven British South Asians who have played professional football in England with only four playing in the premier league including the young footballer Hamza Choudhury (whose mother is of Bangladeshi descent) who is currently playing for Leicester City. There has been a tendency for Asian kids to stick to particular pathways such as becoming doctors and lawyers or looking to becoming a professional in sports with a history of Asians playing professionally namely cricket. This may stem from societal norms but this could also be because there is a feeling that playing professionally in certain sports such as football are reserved for certain sectors of society. 
However, there have been racist undertones which have unfortunately intensified recently. The most high profile case in England recently has involved Raheem Sterling who was involved in a media storm for getting a gun tattoo on his leg. Some elements of the media associated the tattoo with glamourising gun violence; however Sterling says that the tattoo refers to his dad who was killed in gun violence when Sterling was 2 years old. For Sterling the tattoo reflects a vow of never touching a gun. Sterling himself through Instagram compared the treatment of his two Manchester City teammates Phil Foden (who is white) and Tosin Adarabioyo (who is black) by the newspaper The Daily Mail. The article compared the two players who are at the start of their careers and are buying a house. While Foden’s article was viewed in a favourable light, i.e. that he was buying a house for his mother, Adarabioyo was viewed in a far more negative light, i.e. he has bought a house despite not yet starting a game for Manchester City. This could sometimes be attributed to an unconscious bias where your personal experiences and background impact upon your decisions often without the person themselves realising.
Today, there should be zero tolerance for any racist abuse given by a few football fans in stadiums across Britain. Unfortunately, an incident happened in the North London Derby (Arsenal vs Tottenham) on the 2ndDecember 2018. A Tottenham fan threw a banana at the Arsenal and Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. There is unfortunately a history of dehumanising Black people and seeing them of being more like monkeys than humans. Due to the assumption that one of the main staples of a monkey’s diet is bananas, bananas have been used a symbol of hate speech. Tottenham responded swiftly and have banned this fan permanently from attending any of their subsequent games. Furthermore this incident was condemned nationwide and also throughout Europe. The Uefa President Aleksander Ceferindescribed the incident as a disaster for football and argues that “Racism is of course a big problem in football but it’s also a big problem in society”. While he argues that Uefa have a done a lot including sanctioning clubs and national teams, more still needs to be done and Ceferin argues that one of the ways of tackling racism is through education. 
There have been a number of incidents involving football fans abroad that have involved anti-Semitism. One such incident involved some Chelsea fans chanting anti-Semitic chants against the Hungarian side MOL Vidi. This was swiftly condemned by the Chelsea hierarchy themselves with the Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck saying the chants were “unacceptable”and “unwelcome”. Furthermore, he said that "A deeply unpleasant but vocal minority which refuses to join us in the 21st century has shamed the great majority of our decent, well-behaved fans," . Within the Premier League, there has been a history of anti-Semitic chants aimed towards Tottenham Hotspur who have a large Jewish fan base. . This also includes the use of the Y- word by the Spurs fans themselves of which many are in fact not Jewish. The World Jewish Congress Chief Executive Robert Singer said that there is no grey area and that the word “has for years been re-appropriated from its original Yiddish to carry a distinctly pejorative and anti-Semitic message, and its use by fans in the stands, either as a self-designated nickname or as a slogan against rivals must not be tolerated in any way”
Another notable and shocking incident happened before Chelsea’s Champions League game against Paris Saint-Germain in February 2015. Four Chelsea fans pushed a black man off a train carriage in Paris while chanting “We’re racist, we’re racist, and that’s the way we like it.” . They were convicted of racist violence in January 2017 with all four of the Chelsea fans having been banned for life and with one the men losing his finance job in London as a result of this incident.
We are currently living in a very heated political environment with large sections of the country heavily divided over Brexit. According to Ged Grebby, the Chief Executive of Show Racism the Red Card, the European Referendum and the Brexit vote that followed has fed into a large increase in racism within the United Kingdom. Recorded hate crime has dramatically increased by 57% between 2014-15 to 2016-17, with 87% motivated by racial hatred. Hate crime figures for 2016-17 are up 17% in England and Wales to 94,100. 
Ged Grebby, the Chief Executive of Show Racism the Red Card argues that recent terrorist attacks and the Brexit campaign are two of the key reasons behind the recent rise in hate crime. Show Racism the Red Card is a nonpartisan education anti-racism charity thus they have not made any political statements in favour or in opposition to the European Referendum vote.
They were however concerned by the increase in racism towards immigrants during the referendum campaign and subsequently after the vote where racism increased by 200%. This included black people who were born and bred within the United Kingdom being told to “go back home”. Grebby says that this climate which has been exacerbated by individuals such as Tommy Robinson and Nigel Farage would build up“support for their anti-immigration and anti-Muslim rhetoric.” Show Racism the Red Card argues that there is a need for a nationwide anti-racism campaign and a commitment by political parties to not scapegoat immigrants for society’s problems. The former footballer and Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker points out that “migrants contribute far more to the UK society than they claim back”. Thus Grebby states that we should celebrate the contribution immigrants have made to our society over the last century in sectors such as the NHS. They have also contributed greatly in practically every sector within the UK. Thus Grebby believes in wake of the uncertainty of Brexit, there is a need to challenge the hatred and racism and to stop it spreading further and influencing younger people. This would be done by challenging the misconceptions around immigration and also celebrating multi-culturalism.
According to Kick It Out, a football equality charity, there were 520 incidents in football within Britain in the 2017-18 season. This ranges from high profile incidents in the Premier League to less high profile but equally important incidents in grassroots football. This was an increase from 469 incidents in the 2016-17 with 53% of these reports being about racism. An issue with this study which Kick It Out themselves have acknowledged is whether racism has increased or whether people have been more likely to report racist incidents. The Home Office publishes statistics on football related arrests in England and Wales. It shows that out of the 1500 football related arrests, 15 of those arrests were for racist and indecent chanting. That’s more than double the arrests of the 2016-17 season but less than the 44 arrests in the peak 2010-11 season.
However, these figures reveal how many people were arrested and not the actual number of racist incidents. While racism in football is still a major issue, things have improved significantly since the 1980s according to Professor Ellis Cashmore, a sociologist and expert in football racism at Aston University. He states that “Today's racism is nowhere near the level of the 1980s and it's extraordinary that it still clings to this sport given it is so diverse. But in football there seems to be a preservation of a racist tradition". Professor Cashmore argues that the Luis Suarez incident in 2011 where he was found guilty and subsequently banned for 8 games was a turning point as footballers felt more empowered to speak up against racist abuse.However, racism is still prevalent in football and society as seen with a study conducted by Professor Cashmore where 2500 anonymous football fans were surveyed in regards to racism in football. Of those 2500 fans, half of all these fans have witnessed or experienced some form of racism in British football. While racism isn’t as overt as it was in the 1980s, one football fan who responded to the survey believes that racist undertones are prevalent.
The current Wales manager and former Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs gave an interview to Show Racism the Red Card. Giggs grew up in a sporting environment with his dad being a black rugby league player. Giggs sees the importance of the role footballers play in countering racism namely that they are role models who young kids look up to. He encourages those who have received racial abuse to report the racism and the perpetrator of racist abuse should be punished and the victim receiving the help that they need. He believes that racism has decreased over the decades but that racism still exists and still needs to be countered.
Looking at the above examples, the situation may look bleak with racism still very much being prevalent in football. While this may be correct, it has to be acknowledged that we both as a society and the millions of people living in Britain who fervently follow football have become less tolerant of racism. Thus, it is no longer acceptable to make monkey chants at black footballers which unfortunately were a common and an unchallenged part of football games within Britain in the 1970s and 1980s. .
However, the heightened political climate as well as the actions of a small minority of football fans shows that we still have a long way to go in order to reach a post-racial society where a person’s heritage would be a complete irrelevance.
1- https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jun/22/why-so-few-asian-footballers-in-britain, “Why are there so few Asian footballers in Britain?”
2 - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-44285455,“England forward Raheem Sterling defends gun tattoo”
3 - https://www.news.com.au/sport/sports-life/raheem-sterling-exposes-unacceptable-media-coverage-of-teammates/news-story/e499a67d54901c0643e50d23b0a70edd,“Raheem Sterling exposes ‘unacceptable’ media coverage of teammates”
4 - https://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2018/12/03/unai-emery-condemns-spurs-fan-arrested-throwing-banana-skin/,“Uefa president says banana skin thrown at Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is 'a disaster' for football”
5 - https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/46607534, “Bruce Buck: Chelsea chairman writes open letter to fans condemning 'unacceptable' actions”
6 - https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/46768900, “Tottenham: Jewish organisations ask Spurs to act over use of Y-word by fans”
7 - https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/03/chelsea-football-fans-convicted-of-racist-violence-in-paris,“Chelsea football fans convicted of racist violence in Paris”
8 - https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/brexit-and-the-rise-of-racism-in-the-uk_uk,“Brexit And Rising Racism In Britain Showed We Must Challenge Misconceptions About Immigration And Multiculturalism”
9 - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46507364, “Sterling: Is football racism rising?”
10 - https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2005/may/08/europeanfootball.football, “The shame in Spain”