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Football: Racism a blight on the ‘beautiful game’!

By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw In the House of Lords of the British Parliament, on 16 January 2020, racism in English football was the subject of a short debate, from which some interesting facts and figures have emerged. Baroness Barran, on behalf of the Government, stated as follows: “Racism and all forms of discrimination have no place in football or society. We must confront this vile behaviour. Last February, the Government brought together football stakeholders, including the English Football Association (FA), for an anti-discrimination summit, and in July the football authorities set out their list to tackle discrimination, including increasing the minimum sanction for discriminatory behaviour, introducing stronger education measures and improving reporting systems. I met with the FA yesterday and discussed their actions on discrimination. While progress is definitely being made, obviously there is more to do. We will be calling on the footballing authorities for a further update shortly.” As far as the education of fans on what constitutes racism and its effect on players and fellow fans is concerned, she confirmed that the Government is working closely with and keeping close tabs on the FA to ensure that it takes this responsibility seriously. Only one third of English Premiership footballers are non-white and there is only one black manager, namely, Nuno Espirito Santo of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC. Sport England is investing £2 million a year in the FA to support its work in ensuring that the coaching work force is more diverse. Also, the FA board now contains four women and two people of colour. There has been a 123% rise in racist incidents in football since 2016, so, it has been suggested that now might be the time to increase the penalties and strengthen the powers to tackle racism at football grounds under the Football (Disorder) Act, which was passed twenty years ago. Finally, the paralympic athlete, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, pointed out that not only do acts of racism occur in grounds during matches, but social media has become “a breeding ground and some providers allow the worst abuse to remain posted.” Baroness Barran fully agreed with her and stated: “It is clear that players feel racism when they turn on their phones as well as on the field.” And added: “That is very much part of what we will be considering in the online harms Bill.” This Bill (draft legislation) is designed to tackle this problem and make service providers more pro-active in keeping UK users safe online. Clearly, much more needs to be done in kicking out racism from English football and the FA has a key role to play in the process! Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.                    

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