We caught up with Welsh international women’s footballer Gwennan Harries who shared her thoughts about racism in football with the campaign.
Each footballer, whatever level, has a responsibility to act in the correct way
Gwennan Harries is a Welsh female football player, who plays as a striker. She is in her second spell with FA WSL club Bristol Academy Women’s FC after three seasons away playing for Everton. She has represented the Wales women's national football team at under–19 & senior level.
Gwennan took part in the first Sporting Legends Charity match in Wales and continues to show her support to the campaign.
Q1. Have you experienced racism when you were playing? Can you share what happened?
I have been labelled certain things within games because of my Nationality whilst playing my club football. Most of these comments I strongly believe were intended as 'banter' however some I couldn't put in the same category and it proved a difficult challenge to ignore.
Q2. Do you believe racism is still an issue in sport & society?
Unfortunately I believe it is yes, within sport and all other aspects of life.
Q3. What can football clubs do to help stop racism?
With clubs on board with initiatives such as SRtRC more players, coaches and supporters are more aware of the issue. Clubs backing these initiatives are sending the right message out. However in the small instances when racism happens, the clubs need to adopt a sterner attitude to stamp it out. It is pleasing to hear of clubs sacking players found guilty, because this sends the right message out - it is not acceptable on or off the pitch.
Q4. Do you think that the use of sport by Show Racism the Red Card is an effective tool to educate young people about racism?
Without doubt! Young people are the future and their views are important. They are in that stage where they copy and imitate behaviour of others they hold in high regards. This can be good or bad behaviour. By having workshops, competitions etc they are learning the right message by having fun with people from all backgrounds, and being coached and taught by some real role models that have or haven't played the game.
Q5. What advice would you give to any young people experiencing Racism?
It is important to speak out about the treatment they have received. It might feel like something they don't want to share and are not comfortable with, however it is vital they do in order to stamp it out. Through speaking out, action can be taken.
Q6. What action can be taken by the players to try and limit racism?
Football is the best sport for uniting people of all races, backgrounds and abilities and I do feel it is the most powerful tool in which to not only educate but to reduce and stop racism. It is the most watched sport in the World and if all players, clubs and supporters adopt the same attitude whilst promoting the right message then it would help. Each footballer, whatever level, has a responsibility to act in the correct way. The higher the level, the greater the responsibility because footballers are in the public eye constantly, and they are huge role-models to millions of people, if they stand together promoting anti-racist behaviour, correct behaviour, it is likely supporters and children will too.
Q7. As an international sportswoman, have you noticed any racism when you have been playing away?
I have not, however I am aware of some incidents that team-mates have experienced.
Q8. What more can clubs and the football associations do to help challenge racism both on and off the pitch?
There needs to be a sterner attitude to these incidents to stamp it out but for this to happen there has to be a consistent approach within the Football Associations as to the punishments of such behaviour.
It shouldn't be up to the players to try and take action into their own hands because they feel that nothing is being done, the FA's need to support players. FIFA and UEFA should be responsible for setting the correct guidelines for all FA's to follow and if these FA's consistently don't then they should be taken out of competitions.
Q9. What do you think should happen with players found guilty of being racist?
Again there needs to be a consistent punishment for the players and the club also, this way it will send out the correct message. Small fines for multi-millionaire footballers isn't good enough. In my personal opinion I think players should have game bans, and be forced to be educated on the matter.
Q10. Do you think that players of all ages should be educated about what racism is along with the consequences of being racist and how to deal with and report racism?
Most definitely. Youngsters these days are a lot more educated about the matter than in previous decades because of more multi-cultural societies and also the work of initiatives such as SRtRC, however as mentioned previously, they may still adopt the same views of more significant others, therefore people of all ages should be educated in order to make sure the right message is sent out through all age groups.
Q11. As a full time teacher have you experienced racism in the school setting?
Never. Schools adopt very strict policies upon racism and bullying and I'm glad to say that these are in place within the schools I have attended as a pupil and as a teacher.
Q12. What more can be done to challenge racism & racist attitudes in schools?
Education is so important. Youngsters spend a lot of time in school where they not only need to be educated on curriculum based topics, but life skills also. These life topics such as racism, need to be incorporated more into the PSE lessons along with utilising areas within each subject topic where it can be taught. For example, the current WJEC Physical Education A-Level syllabus has a unit of work on social differentiation. Pupils learn here about initiatives in place to help provision, opportunity and esteem along with things such as rules like the Rooney Rule in place in American Football in the USA.
Q13. Any final messages?
Although unfortunately racism still exists, it is pleasing to see initiatives in place working together to challenge and correct this prejudice. However it is not solely their responsibility, individuals, sports, governing bodies and the government need to work together to stop this.
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