A parliamentary report concludes racism a problem in English football
Chelsea's John Terry was recently cleared a racial abuse by a magistrate's court
Liverpool's Luis Suarez was handed an eight-match ban for racial abuse last year
The English FA urged to do more to tackle all forms of abuse in the game
English football continues to troubled by the scourge of racism, according to a Parliamentary report.
Over the last year England’s football authorities – as well as England’s justice system – have had to contend with racism cases involving Patrice Evra of Manchester United and Liverpool’s Luis Suarez as well as Chelsea’s John Terry and Anton Ferdinand of QPR.
In December, the English Football Association handed Suarez an eight-match ban and a £40,000 fine after finding the Uruguayan guilty of racially abusing Evra, while in July, ex-England captain John Terry was cleared of racially abusing fellow footballer Anton Ferdinand at Westminster Magistrates’ Court
“Much has been done to improve the atmosphere and behaviour at football matches and it has become a much more family-friendly activity,” said chair of the Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Committee John Whittingdale MP. “However, recent incidents of racist abuse in the UK, both on and off the pitch, have highlighted the fact that there remain significant problems.
“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.”
And the CMS committee called on the FA to do more in tackling all forms of abuse in 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 FA, the Premier League and the Football League issued a joint response to the CMS report.
“We agree with the Committee that whilst substantial progress has been made to promote equality and tackle discrimination in the game, challenges remain for all of the football authorities,” said their statement.
“We remain committed, along with all of our stakeholders, to promoting equality and diversity within the game and to the eradication of all forms of discrimination in football.
“We will continue to work across the entire breadth of the sport to deliver our inclusion and anti-discrimination agenda. In doing so, we will consider in detail how the Committee’s recommendations can support and influence this work.
Evidence given to the CMS suggested that homophobia might now be the biggest problem football is facing.
“Recent research found that 25% of fans think that football is homophobic while 10% think that football is racist,” said the CMS, which wants the FA to promote a campaign to “highlight the damaging effect of homophobic language and behaviour in around football at every level.”
As well as identifying homophobic abuse as well as “laddish” behaviour as significant problems, the report demanded a more active response from the authorities to racial abuse at grassroots level.
The report noted that social media – such as Twitter and online forums – had been used to spread racist and abusive content but suggested the medium could be used more effectively to counteract the problem of abuse.”
“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,” added Whittingdale.
There are very few black managers in English football’s four divisions – Chris Hughton is the only one in the Premier League – and the CMS committee called for improved recruitment processes across all clubs and football authorities.
“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,” said the report.
Although Terry was cleared of racially abusing Ferdinand in the courts the ex-England captain faces an FA racial abuse charge on September 24.
The FA’s three-man Independent Regulatory Commission will judge that case “on the balance of probabilities”, a lesser burden of proof than “beyond reasonable doubt” which is used in the courts.
English football is not the only sport that is currently facing the issue of racism.
Toronto shortstop Yunel Escobar has been suspended for three games by the Blue Jays for wearing eye-black displaying a homophobic slur written in Spanish during a game last weekend against Boston.