Racism in football

So the media is filled to bursting with people throwing in their two cents about racism in British football at the moment. Between John Terry, Luis Suarez and most of the Serbian Under-21s team, it’s pretty obvious why, and there have been a lot of different views on how to deal with the issue.

The PFA has recently released a six point action plan to deal with racism in football, including introducing the “Rooney Rule”. This has nothing to do with a spud-headed scouser, but in fact is named after Dan Rooney, the owner of NFL franchise the Pittsburgh Steelers. One idea which has been floated recently by the PFA  is to adopt the “Rooney Rule”. Brought into place in 2003, the Rooney Rule requires any team hiring a new head coach to interview qualified non-white candidates as a matter of course. Since it’s introduction the rule has had positive results, with an increase in coaches from ethnic minorities from 6% to 25%. Compare that to a big fat 0% in the Premier League, and you can see why this idea has garnered some support. The logic behind adopting this rule is fairly simple: if a player has a black manager he’s much less likely to racially abuse an opposing player.

But wait a minute, don’t John Terry and Luis Suarez have black teammates? Why yes, yes they do. By the aforementioned logic then, the racial abuse committed by both men should never have happened.

I feel like this plan is missing a crucial point….

But don’t worry, the PFA is also going to, amongst other things, introduce stiffer penalties and awareness days for clubs and players involved in racial abuse, as well as classifying racial abuse as gross misconduct in player and coach contracts.

Again, these are definitely steps in the right direction, but I can’t help but feel like something is being overlooked.

Oh, I remember now. Racism isn’t caused by not having a black boss or only working with white people. It’s caused by a number of different factors, which I won’t go through here, but those aren’t amongst them.

Don’t get me wrong, affirmative action is perfectly good, and I still think the Rooney Rule should be adopted, the FA should come down hard on racism and so on. But let’s not kid ourselves, those things aren’t going to stop racism existing on the pitch and in the stands.

Racism is the result of countless different social factors which need to be addressed by national and international policy, education and community integration. Football, and sports in general, are fantastic at breaking down barriers between people (Christmas Day 1914 anyone?) and the FA, UEFA and everyone involved in the sport should take every possible step to stamp out racism wherever it raises its ugly head. That doesn’t mean it won’t exist.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully support tougher measures to ensure that racism doesn’t taint the beautiful game, and I think these new rules should be welcomed with open arms. I just don’t think we should be so naive as to think it will solve the problem.

It isn’t all down to the governing bodies to deal with this, though. As football fans, we should be making a stand alongside players like Jason Roberts, who this week refused to wear a Kick It Out t-shirt in protest over the lack of action against racism in football.

We should show people like John Terry and Luis Suarez exactly what we think of them and their actions. I’d start by holding very visible, very public demonstrations outside stadiums on match days. I’d also suggest a shirt trade-in scheme, facilitated by Chelsea, Liverpool and the FA, to allow any fan with a Terry or Suarez top to swap it for a new kit which doesn’t have a proven racists name emblazoned across the back.

Not only will this shame the players involved, but it also sends out a strong message to the home of racism in professional football, our fellow supporters.

Again, this isn’t going to wipe out racism completely, but I do feel like supporters should be sending a clear message as well.

That’s just me though.

Rant over, thanks for reading.

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