Racism in sport, particularly football, is acknowledged as a minnow in the vast sporting arena. Over recent years, the media reports ever rising quantities of incidents of this kind. Speaking within a football context, do the senior figures of UEFA, FIFA and similar bodies seriously believe that this is a marginal issue?
Only yesterday, the media reported that Kevin Prince Boateng reacted to racist chanting, fired the ball at the crowd and walked off the pitch and refused to play (in a ‘friendly’ fixture), supported by his AC Milan teammates. In the not so distant past, Serbia U21′s v England U21′s sparked large scale fury at the level of racist chanting and physical gestures made to some England individuals. There are many, many recorded issues over the past 2-3 years, week in, week out.
Do we seriously think that this issue is slowly proceeding to be eradicated using the methods selected by the governing bodies of sport? Personally, the recent experience I have of a Football Association approved anti-racism program is very poor. The organisation of the workshop was poorly organised and contained material from footballers who themselves have been transferred/sacked/released from clubs recently for racist comments on social networking sites (E.G. Mido (Egypt) – Barnsley FC – Racist comments towards Israel, sacked/released from club, features on programme promotional material). The course organisers had no knowledge of this issue, yet it was highly publicised.
Is the problem deep rooted in society? Does this stem from generations passing the football fan mentality down to future generations? Racism stems in many walks of life, not just sport. Another personal perspective, I cannot attend a local football match in my hometown without hearing a racist comment throughout a game. We don’t hear the same amount of occurrences in other mainstream sports within the UK, is this down to the mentality and upbringing of these fans? We see many high profile sportsmen and women on social networking asking many sporting powers to ‘stand up’ and ‘take action’, but how do they do this? Shouldn’t we be looking at the bigger social/economic/psychological picture? Sport generates vast amounts of money, what percent of this is put into protecting the very people that puts the fans in the stands and generates the revenue?
Racism in sport will be here to stay as long as the bigger picture in society is not confronted. Can football and sport in general be the vehicle to tackle this problem? Only time will tell. Personally, lifetime bans, prosecution and similar action will not be enough. This mentality transfers much further than sport. Simply put, UEFA, FIFA, similar bodies…..STAND UP AND BE COUNTED FOR, ITS NOT WORKING!
Sport, Fitness & Recreation Manager, keen golfer, retired footballer & NFL newbie