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MPs: Racism in football a “continuing problem”

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In a report published today [Wednesday 19th September] the cross-party Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee (CCMS) says that football authorities at all levels of the game, supporters’ and players’ groups need to take responsibility for pro-actively tackling all forms of discrimination, including racism, but it is the FA that must take the lead and set a strong example for others to follow.

The CCMS says that transparent and consistent methods for reporting criminal behaviour including racism are still lacking, in particular at grass roots level. It says there is a clear need to encourage more candidates from ethnic minorities to train as coaches and referees to ensure that clubs and boards can select from a more diverse pool of recruits from within the football pyramid.

The CCMS recommends that:

  • It should be a priority for the FA to develop procedures for stewards to follow and regular training opportunities to ensure that all relevant staff at club grounds are capable of reacting swiftly and consistently to incidents of abuse.
  • The efforts being made at league and club level to ensure successful prosecutions in cases of racial abuse are extremely welcome; however, it is important that similar efforts are applied to the grassroots game.
  • All appointments should be based on merit alone irrespective of the candidates’ race. The Committee says the best and most equitable way to introduce greater diversity among football managers and on boards is to encourage transparency and consistency of recruitment processes across all clubs and football authorities
  • Candidates from ethnic minorities should be encouraged to train as coaches and referees, to ensure that clubs and boards can select from a more diverse pool of recruits.

John Whittingdale MP, chair of the Committee, said: “Much has been done to improve the atmosphere and behaviour at football matches and it has become a much more family friendly activity. However, recent incidents of racist abuse in the UK, both on and off the pitch, have highlighted the fact that there remain significant problems.

“We heard evidence that social media has become a tool for the spread of racist and abusive content but it is also a potential means of combating the ignorance and prejudice that lie behind such behaviour. We believe that the football authorities should be using this developing forum for communication and debate, to spread positive messages about equality and diversity and also to speak out strongly against instances of racist abuse when they occur.

“More needs to be done to increase the diversity of the pool of candidates for coaches and referees, to embed the values of equality and diversity at all levels of the game.

“While the general level of progress in combating racism and racist abuse in the UK is positive and should be applauded, there is much more that can and must be done, and we believe it is for the FA to take the lead and set the example for everyone, from football authorities at all levels to the grassroots groups, to follow.”

The Gay Football Supporters Network welcomed the report but said it would like more done to combat homophobia including a national, high-profile campaign.

Campaign officer Ed Connell said: “We welcome today’s report which recommends that the football authorities should provide clear reporting systems for any form of prejudice as well as promoting equality and diversity whenever possible. We also welcome the report’s suggestion that the FA continue to work with organisations such as ours to come up with an effective high profile campaign to tackle the problem.”

Raj Chandarana, diversity lead at the FSF, said: “It is a fundamental principle of the FSF that members absolutely reject any forms of discrimination and promote the cause of diversity – there is no room for argument on that and we work with Kick It Out and Show Racism The Red Card to that end.

“The report is an important reminder to the game that we cannot relax and think that such problems were consigned to past generations. We have to remain proactive in challenging those who hold racist, homophobic, or other discriminatory views.

“Unacceptable attitudes can fester from the top to the bottom and we need to encourage a culture which allows those views to be challenged. That goes right from grassroots level to the elite, from the fans to players, managers, and officials.

“The FA should be the domestic game’s undisputed governing body and protector and, with that in mind, we welcome the Committee’s recommendation that the FA should take a strong lead on this and set standards for others to follow. This is in line with the evidence I gave to the committee itself and we’d be delighted to work with the FA on this.

“Lastly, credit to each and every fan, player, or football official involved in the fight against discrimination over the past few decades. The battle isn’t over by any means, but huge strides forward have been made and they happened because people were brave enough to stand up and make their voice heard.”

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