1 The problem |
1. In the 1980s racially motivated abuse was, as
stated by the equality and inclusion campaign group 'Kick it Out',
"commonplace in and around football".
Kick it Out now reports that "incidents of racism are rare".
However, racist behaviour has not been banished from the game
and there are still reports of incidents occurring within and
outside of matches. Racism in football has dominated the headlines
of newspapers after a series of high profile events, on-pitch
incidents and reported comments in England, Holland, Bulgaria,
Turkey and most recently in Ukraine and Poland during the European
Championship 2012. In England, the FA's investigation into the
accusations that Luis Suarez racially abused Patrice Evra, and
the subsequent decision to impose an eight game ban and a £40,000
fine on the player, as well as the removal of the England captaincy
from John Terry prior to his trial for allegedly using racially
abusive languageof which he was acquitteddemonstrate
that the issue is taken seriously. A decision has yet to be made
on whether John Terry will be charged under the Football Association's
rules on the use of racially abusive language, for which there
is a lower burden of proof than in a criminal court.
2. Because of the continuing concerns, we decided
to hold a short inquiry into racism in football. While taking
into account these recent events, we have also based our inquiry
on the positive progress that has been achieved in recent years,
by voluntary organisations, charities and football authorities,
as well as the significant challenges that still need to be overcome.
We received 14 written submissions and took oral evidence from
Paul Elliott MBE, a former player for Celtic and Chelsea, Gordon
Taylor, Chief Executive of the Professional Footballers Association,
David Bernstein, Chairman and Sue Law, Head of Equality and Child
Protection from The Football Association (FA), Raj Chandarana
of the Football Supporters Association and Lord Ouseley, Chair
of Kick it Out. We would like to thank all those who gave evidence
3. There is much to say that is positive. The FA
told us that in 1993 England was the first country to make a concerted
effort to rid football of the:
mindless overt racism that saw our black players
being regularly subjected to aggressive racist abuse from both
fans and to a lesser extent, their fellow players on the pitch.
Since then, the work that has been done across football, to rid
the game of these forms of racism. has seen significant cultural
change in the game as a whole and specifically in our stadia.
4. We heard from Paul Elliott, former player for
Celtic and Chelsea, that his generation of players (competing
in the late 1980s and 1990s) had to " put up with it"
when they were subject to racial abuse.
Gordon Taylor, of the Professional Footballers Association, contrasted
this with the attitude of today's players saying that:
Today's generation of black players are far less
prepared to do that or accept it as banter and that is what we
are facing now, because it is a different generation.
5. The Premier and Football Leagues both cited Home
Office statistics that "show the number of arrests at football
matches have been falling year on year and is currently at the
lowest level [3,089] since records began in 1984-1985".
The number of arrests made at football matches as the result of
racial or indecent chanting had "remained low" according
to the Football League. During the 2010/11 season there were 16
arrests at Football League matches and 23 at Premier League matches
on or near the grounds.
According to the Premier League, 20% of its matches witnessed
one or more arrests.
The FA told us that in total 43 arrests were made as a result
of racist or indecent chanting during the 2010/11 season compared
to 31 arrests in the 2009/10 season.
6. Indeed, John Mann MP, Chairman of the All Party
Parliamentary Group on Anti-Semitism, acknowledged in his report
on 'Tackling Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Football', 2010:
Football has moved well beyond most other institutions
in recognising the importance of tackling racism and as the country's
most recognisable export, it has developed an intolerance to racism
that exceeds the standards of most other national football associations.
7. In some institutional aspects, football in general
is ahead of other sports in its attempts to tackle racism. In
2008, the FA established a national Race Equality Advisory Group
(REAG) to advise the FA board. It remains the only national sports
governing body to have appointed a REAG. The current Chairman,
Lord Ouseley, represents the REAG on the FA Council. In addition,
there are now 10 County Football Associations which have local
Race and/or Equality Advisory Groups (R/EAGs). As far as is known,
football is the only sport to introduce local advisory groups
with a focus on equality, and specifically race equality.
8. Other factors have had an impact on the incidence
of racist abuse and assaults. The significant increase in the
number of footballers from black, Asian and other minority backgrounds
which resulted from the 'Bosman ruling'
in the 1990s was one important factor.
In addition, the introduction of all-seater stadia changed the
atmosphere within grounds and allowed perpetrators to be more
9. While the general perception was that racism was
less widespread than it used to be, Show Racism the Red Card,
the prominent anti-racist charity, asserted that the problem persisted:
"Many football clubs have done great work over the years
... to help educate against racism .... However, this work is
quickly undermined by a lack of action or dismissive words when
an incident occurs".
According to their research, many of those working in and around
football had immediately dismissed accusations of racism, issuing
defences such as "I know him and he's not racist", classifying
exchanges as "banter" or arguing that "What happens
on the pitch stays on the pitch".
Moreover, we were told that the FA could not "enforce change
at club-level, which leads to cycles of abdication and responsibility".
10. The three main areas where racist behaviour has
been visible have been on the streets, in the grounds and online.
Football-related incidents can have a much broader impact than
just within football grounds. The public disorder in some towns
in the north of the country which occurred over the summer of
2001 was initially triggered by a group of football supporters
and far right extremists attacking an area of Oldham. The reasons
behind the attack were not football-related. However, the incident
demonstrates the interplay between football and tensions in the
wider community. Brendon Batson MBE, former professional player
and administrator at the Professional Footballers' Association
(PFA), told us that he recalled, in the mid-70s, "being called
the N-word, week in, week out".
While it is apparent that the situation on the pitch has moved
on considerably from that time, there are still individual instances
of on-the-pitch racial abuse.
11. The internet and social media have become both
a means by which racist abuse can be spread and a source of positive
information and support for victims. They also represent a new
means by which incidents can be reported. 'True Vision'which
is a website operated by the Association of Chief Police Officersis
an example of the way the internet can be used as a positive tool
for tackling racism by providing information to victims and allowing
people to report race crimes online. By January 2012, over 1,300
reports of crime had been made through True Vision (about 300
of which related to online offences).
12. There need
to be clear and consistent methods for reporting criminal behaviour
including racist abuse linked to football. We recommend that the
FA promote existing methods for doing so, including by providing
clear links through its website to the Association of Chief Police
Officers' True Vision website, directing users to report racist
or other abusive behaviour linked to football.
13. The Football
Association ought to grasp the opportunity afforded by social
media to speak out against incidents of abuse and discrimination
within football. We recommend that it use platforms such as Twitter
and Football Online chat-rooms to condemn racist, sexist, homophobic
or other abuse swiftly and decisively when they occur.
THE DANGERS OF COMPLACENCY
14. Some of our witnesses cautioned against complacency
over issues of racism.
Though largely positive about the steps which had been taken thus
far, The All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-semitism (APPGAA)
pointed to evidence received by us as a part of our inquiry into
football governance in 2011, which, it argued, suggested that
some authorities ran the risk of complacency.
It gave as an example of this a quote from the evidence presented
by The League Managers Association which stated that:
Racial abuse has now thankfully been all but eradicated
from our stadia, thanks to Kick it Out campaign and the FA's Ethics
and Sports Equity Strategy.
is not the source of racism, but it has all too easily provided
a platform for extremist groups to promote their racist views
and behaviour. It is essential, therefore, that authoritiesat
all levels of the gametake responsibility for proactively
tackling all forms of discrimination including racism. While all
football authorities, supporters' and players' groups must take
positive action against racist behaviour, it is vital that the
Football Association takes the lead and sets a strong example
for others to follow.
16. Great strides
have been made towards making football a powerful source of positive
information and leadership against discrimination. However, the
FA should avoid complacency. There are still reforms which are
needed and systems to be put in place, which are covered in the
remainder of this report, and achieving these quickly will require
the strong leadership of football's governing body.
The wider problem
17. The problem of discrimination in footballand,
indeed, in sport more widelygoes beyond racism. Football
has traditionally been a male activity both in terms of players
and spectators. The Premier League's most recent attendance survey
showed that 23% of the League's match-attending fans and 37% of
non-match-attending fans were female.
Despite the gender imbalance, there has been significant change
in the audience for football. This has altered the atmosphere
during matches as well as increasing the demand for further improvements.
Gordon Taylor spoke about the "civilisation of the game"
which was resulting from more women and families attending matches.
He described the "current challenge" for the clubs as
being to ensure that the sort of "banter that involves racism,
homophobia or other different elementsof course against
females as wellthat it just is not part of the game's vocabulary".
is now emerging that homophobia may now be a bigger problem in
football than other forms of discrimination. Recent research found
that 25% of fans think that football is homophobic while 10% think
that football is racist.
About 14% of recent match attendees also reported hearing homophobic
recognised that "progress has been made by Government and
football authorities in recognising homophobia as an issue, but
too little practical action has been taken to address it".
It called for a high-profile campaign specifically focused on
challenging homophobic attitudes and behaviour directed at fans,
players and managers. As well as raising the profile of the issue,
the football authorities and individual clubs should be required
actively to address homophobic incidents as well as to offer support
to players, staff and managers.
19. The FA should
work with relevant organisations and charities to develop and
then promote a high-profile campaign to highlight the damaging
effect of homophobic language and behaviour in and around football
at every level. The campaign should identify sources of support
for affected individuals as well as setting out a clear reporting
structure for homophobic incidents.
1 Ev 33, para 1 Back
Ev 34, para 2 Back
Ev 26, para 1.2 Back
Q 3 Back
Q 9 Back
Ev w7 , para 4.4 and Ev w26, para 7. The figures cited by the
Leagues were obtained from the Home Office's UK Football Policing
Ev w7, para 4.4 and Ev w26, para 7 Back
Ev w26, para 7 Back
Ev 27, para 2.2.3 Back
Ev w6, para 3.5 Back
Ev w1, para 3.1 Back
The 'Bosman ruling' resulted from a case in the European Court
of Justice in 1995 after which restrictions on foreign players
within national leagues were banned. Back
Ev w2, para 3.2 Back
Ev w2, para 3.6 Back
Ev w10 Back
Ev 26 Back
Ev w13, para 3.1 Back
Ev w12, para 1.8 Back
Ev w12 and FG Ev 38, para 1.2 Back
House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Football
Governance, Seventh Report of Session 2010-12, Vol I, HC 792-1,
Ev 38, para 1.2 Back
Ev w25, para 6 Back
Q 10 Back
Ev w8, para 1.10 Back