Alan talks racism in football. What is its current state considering organisations like Kick It Out are trying to combat it?

Chelsea Football Club’s formal complaint against Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg for the alleged use of racial language during their loss to Manchester United on Sunday is only the most recent in an ever-growing list of recent incidents bringing the issue of racism in British football to the limelight. As a result of the seemingly endless controversies it becomes inevitable to question the extent to which racism is still an issue within the national sport, and the extent to which attempts to tackle it have succeeded.

The main directive to tackle racism in England is the Kick It Out Directive. Initially established as a campaign in 1993, Kick It Out was established as an organisation in 1997. Funded directly by the Football Association, Kick It Out works both domestically and internationally through interaction with several multi-national bodies dealing with racism. Although the body was almost universally popular upon its conception, it has recently come under increased scrutiny and criticism following the increase in race-related incidents, and particularly the lack of action being taken in response to them. Following the racist abuse suffered by Danny Rose whilst on International duty, Kick It Out attempted to organise Premier League players to wear shirts bearing the Kick It Out logo before matches. This was boycotted however by a large number of black footballers, including Rio and Anton Ferdinand (himself a victim of racist abuse by John Terry, which received only a short term ban and small fine), Manchester City defender Micah Richards, and Jason Roberts. This was a protest from these players at the perceived lack of action by the body against racism. These recent criticisms of the Kick It Out directive are by no means the first time the organisation has come under fire. Manchester City and England defender Joleon Lescott has refused to wear the Kick It Out t-shirt before matches since 2007. This is in protest to the escaping of punishment of then Newcastle United midfielder Emre for the racial abuse of former Everton defender Joseph Yobo in spite of Lescott’s written evidence.

In attempts to address these issues within football, and the lack of action taken against them, the idea of a separate black footballer’s association has been pitched by human rights barrister Peter Herbert. Quite frankly, the idea that the inception of such a body would effectively quell any racist feeling within the sport is inherently flawed. Instead the action would be more likely to mirror segregation than a forum to bring different races together. If we are to consider this ‘separate but equal’ approach, why not try affirmative action to ensure that there is enough of each ethnicity on each team? Why not rename Blackpool in order to ensure that there’s no untoward offence?

It remains clear that there are issues concerning race that still have to be addressed within the hierarchies of Football in the United Kingdom. Perhaps the most worrying is the distinct lack of representation of ethnic minorities within the coaching side of the game. Whilst there is little that can be done in order to ensure the employment of ethnic minorities, reforms from within the sport to end the racist attitudes that are still present in every echelon of football will address this under-representation through time. Although the existing methods of tackling racism are by no means perfect, it must be remembered that Kick it Out was only a fully established organisation in 1997, and that change on issues like race are gradual changes in perception, rather than overnight reform.

[Alan Compton]

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