Media, Culture and Sport Committee report on Racism in Football risks repeating the mistakes of the past, says football research expert

Posted by pt91 at Sep 19, 2012 02:57 PM |
Expert comment from University of Leicester sociologist
Media, Culture and Sport Committee report on Racism in Football risks repeating the mistakes of the past, says football research expert

John Williams, Senior Lecturer in Sociology

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 19 September 2012

John Williams, Senior Lecturer at the University of Leicester, who has written widely on racism in football, and who works closely with Sporting Equals in addressing racism in sport, has broadly welcomed the new report from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.  But he also warns about the risk of repeating mistakes from the past.

He commented:

“It is important, as the report does, to raise the issue of homophobic abuse in football – though sexism is still largely ignored. It is also undoubtedly useful to have The FA commission a review of the various educational initiatives now operating in football to address racism.  We have made considerable progress in this area, but we do need to know much more about what is effective and what is more peripheral.

“But it is also important that this latest report does not simply repeat some of the mistakes made by of the Football Task Force in its own report on racism back in 1998. Some 14 years on, we face some of the same core problems, especially in relation to the recruitment of more BME referees, coaches, administrators and board members. The new report argues – as did the Task Force – that ‘racism is most prevalent on the streets, in the ground and on-line.’ 

“That may be true for overt racist abuse, but we can see by how little has changed since 1998, at the coaching, managerial and administrative levels of the game, that far too little has been done since then to truly challenge institutional closure in football to BME recruits.  As committee member MP Steve Rotherham points out. ‘Some [football boards are all male, all white, there is no diversity there.’ The new report’s call for more ‘transparent recruitment processes’ and ‘recruitment on merit’ for important positions in both the professional and amateur game, is a repeated mantra and is frankly rather outmoded. On the face of it, this will do little to change the current situation because it has been ineffective in the past.

“Instead, we need to be much more pro-active and inventive in ensuring that we get many more quality BME candidates at least to interview situations for elite positions in the game.  We need to collect reliable data on this – here is where transparency can help. We also need to work much harder on fast tracking people from BME backgrounds – and more women - onto ‘closed’ voluntary local bodies in the amateur game, such as County FAs. The FA calls in the new report for ‘more [BME] role models’, but seems at a loss how to ensure they will come forward.

“We need to avoid this kind of ‘victim blaming’ and focus instead on dealing head on with some of the often ‘hidden’ barriers to BMEs inside the sport. Since the Task Force report of 1998, and with the support of most football fans, we have begun to tackle racism in English football crowds. Now we need to look at problems inside the game, at both amateur and professional levels, and work equally effectively there for real change.”

John Williams is Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of Leicester

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