Culture, Media and Sport Committee - Racism in FootballWritten evidence submitted by The Football League


The Football League is the world’s original league football competition and its clubs are at the heart of 72 local communities. The League plays an important part in people’s lives and as such it recognises the influential role it has in tackling discrimination and promoting diversity within society.

For many years, Football League clubs have been at the forefront of efforts to promote equality in our national sport, successfully creating thousands of sporting role-models along the way and creating a matchday environment in which racist behaviour is not tolerated.

Football League ground regulations prohibit discrimination of any kind at matches. Stewards are specifically trained to recognise and manage any situations that may occur and a variety of sanctions are available to clubs—including life bans. Encouragingly, arrests for racist behaviour at football grounds are extremely rare (less than one arrest for every million fans admitted).

The Football League enjoys positive relations with Kick it Out and Show Racism the Red Card, with all 72 of its clubs taking part in anti-racism initiatives every season.

Through the work of The Football League Trust and individual club community programmes, The League and its clubs are using their community programmes to promote cohesion within their local area. Clubs are striving to achieve higher standards through the Kick It Out Equality Standard.

The Football League is committed to increasing the diversity of individuals working in the football industry including directors, administrators, managers and players.

Football League clubs are working to attract more Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) fans to their matches, although some communities remain difficult to reach.

The Football League is an equal opportunities employer. Our customer charter seeks to ensure that spectators, players, officials and others involved at football matches and in football generally should be protected from discrimination, including that on the grounds of age, race or ethnic origin, religious belief, sexual orientation, disability, gender or any other unjustifiable reason.

1. Introduction

1.1 Formed in 1888 by its twelve founder members, The Football League is the world’s original league football competition and is the template for leagues the world over. With 72 member clubs, it is also the largest single body of professional clubs in European football and is responsible for administering and regulating the npower Football League, the Carling Cup and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, as well as reserve and youth football. Last season, more than 17 million fans attended League competitions; with millions more viewing matches on television. Off the pitch, the inspiring work of The Football League Trust helps more than 1.5 million people in the communities in and around its clubs.

1.2 The League is a hugely important national institution and plays a pivotal role in the lives of football fans and people living in the communities that surround our 72 clubs. Its values are Community, Authenticity, Progression and Inclusion and it fully recognises the influential role it has in tackling discrimination and promoting diversity in society. For many years Football League clubs have been at the forefront of football’s efforts to promote equality in our national sport, successfully creating thousands of sporting role-models along the way including club owners and directors to players, coaches and managers.

1.3 Great credit should go to Kick it Out and Show Racism the Red Card who have helped co-ordinate the work of football organisations by providing a focus for their activities.

1.4 However, despite football’s long-standing contribution, there remain challenges surrounding racism in wider society as a whole. The Football League is committed to playing its part in making our local communities free from racist behaviour.

2. Clubs and their communities

2.1 The Football League and its 72 clubs are very often at the heart of efforts to tackle racism within their local communities. Many Football League clubs use their own community schemes to promote anti-racism initiatives, usually in conjunction with Kick it Out and/or Show Racism the Red Card.

CASE STUDYDagenham & Redbridge

Each season, Dagenham & Redbridge host a Daggers Against Racism Family Fun Day (this season’s take place on 3 March for the match with Bradford City), putting the club at the forefront of efforts to tackle discrimination in one of the most deprived boroughs in the country. Prior to 2010 the British National Party held 12 seats on the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Council. The BNP would also leaflet home and away fans outside matches, proving a significant issue for the club. Following the 2010 local elections in London the British National Party no longer has any representation on the borough council but the club continues its efforts to promote community cohesion in its local area.

2.2 The Football League Trust—the umbrella organisation for Football League club community programmes—makes a commitment to promoting diversity a key part of its three-tier accreditation programme. Any club seeking to achieve their Silver Community Club status must be working towards achieving the Kick it Out “Equality Standard” at preliminary level. Currently 21 Football League Clubs have achieved the preliminary level with three Football League Clubs (Watford, Millwall and Sheffield United) having further progressed to the intermediate level.


In 1994 the Millwall Anti Racism Trust now Millwall for All Trust was established, one of the first bodies of its kind in the country. The Millwall for All committee has representatives from Millwall football club, supporters club, minority communities, local residents and council members. Since that time, Millwall have earned a reputation as one of the most progressive clubs in the country in this area. The Lions are amongst the 13 English professional clubs and the first Football League club to have achieved the Intermediate Racial Equality Standard awarded by Kick It Out.

Every season, Millwall organise their annual community match (in addition to the Kick It Out week of action). In the last 17 years the club have donated more than 25,000 tickets to local initiatives promoting community cohesion. Millwall have donated kit to the Millwall for All Trust 11-a-side league and have helped 88 coaches who have English as a second language gain FA Level One qualifications as well as providing over 1,000 hours of coaching to local BAME groups.

2.3 Every season, all 72 Football League clubs participate in the Kick it Out “One Game One Community” Weeks of Action. Clubs are encouraged to nominate a Kick it Out ambassador who represents the club at events and works with Kick It Out at events. Kick It Out have highlighted the work of Scunthorpe United for involving school children in a cultural day in partnership with the local council; Plymouth Argyle for producing their own anti-racism banners and Notts County who took the One Game One Community campaign in to local schools when taking community coaching sessions.

2.4 The Football League understands the importance of sharing best practice across its membership. The League regularly holds seminars on a wide range of issues for staff in all areas of a professional football club. Staff are trained in identifying and dealing with discrimination issues such as clamping down on the use of discriminatory language.

2.5 This Board of The Football League have recently accepted an offer from Weiss Chevalier, through its Managing Partner Garth Crooks to provide equality training to all 72 Football League clubs. The training will be offered to all playing and coaching staff and will focus on improving understanding of acceptability across different cultures and nationalities within the game.

3. Promoting diversity at club level

3.1 The Football League is committed to increasing the diversity of people working in the football industry including directors, administrators, managers and players.

3.2 Football League clubs are now owned and managed by people from increasingly diverse backgrounds and cultures. This also extends to club staff, some of whom were recognised at the recent Asian Football Awards.

CASE STUDYAsian Football Awards

At the 2012 Asian Football awards a number of Football League players, administrators and owners were recognised for their contribution to football. Ipswich Town’s Michael Chopra was named Player of the Year, while Danny Batth who is currently on loan at Sheffield Wednesday won the award for Young Player of the Year. Other Football League winners and nominees on the night included Watford’s Raj Athwal—winner in the Administrator of the Year category, Ilyas Khan at Accrington Stanley—nominated for Investor of the Year and Birmingham City Osteopath Poora Singh—nominated for the Behind the Scenes Award.

3.3 Currently there are three black managers in The Football League (Chris Powell at Charlton Athletic, Keith Curle at Notts County and Chris Hughton at Birmingham City). Over the last decade this figure has ranged between one and five. The relatively low proportion of black managers (relative to the number of players) has become the yardstick by which football’s performance on diversity is judged. Whilst it is inevitably a more complicated equation, there is no doubt that having more BAME managers would play an important role in opening doors for others. To this end, The Football League is currently in discussions with clubs regarding the process by which they recruit their managers. This is work in progress, but The Football League is hopeful of breaking new ground in this important area.

3.4 The Football League also supports the aim of helping coaches from all backgrounds reach their full potential, as it will ensure that the very best coaches are available to the English game. In order to achieve this The League has agreed to contribute towards a bursary scheme, in conjunction with other football bodies that will help black and minority ethnic coaches to further their football qualifications and progress their career. The COACH bursary scheme is a joint partnership between The Football League, Football Association, Premier League, League Managers Association and the Professional Footballers Association. The bursary scheme seeks to support coaches from BAME backgrounds to achieve Level 3 coaching badges. Managed by The Football Association the scheme provides coaches from under represented backgrounds to improve their chances of securing jobs within the professional game by gaining increased qualifications. As part of the COACH scheme, coaches have the opportunity to be placed with a club in The Football League in order to gain valuable experience.

3.5 Whilst it should be noted that the conduct of players and managers on the pitch or comments they may take in the media (including on social media outlets) fall under the jurisdiction of The Football Association, The Football League, through its educational partner League Football Education (LFE), seeks to educate young players in youth development programmes at clubs by delivering equality training to apprentices in conjunction with Kick it Out. The scheme was piloted at six clubs last season and has been extended further this season with another fifteen clubs in line to receive the training. LFE have received positive feedback from apprentices, scholars, trainers and clubs on the scheme which will be developed on an ongoing basis.

3.6 League Football Education is also committed to ensuring a diverse range of apprentices are given the opportunity to earn a career in the professional game. Currently 27% of LFE Apprentices classify themselves as being of a background other than white British. The percentage of apprentices from BAME apprentices who become professional is currently higher than for white British apprentices. These young professionals have the chance to become the role models of the future for young people across England and Wales.

3.7 At the recent summit convened by the Prime Minister at Downing Street, The Football League, Premier League and The FA agreed to work together and report back to the Culture Secretary on progress made and plans for the future before the start of the 2012–13 season.

4. Supporters and the matchday experience

4.1 The behaviour of fans at football matches is an area in which football has made significant progress over the past thirty years. Its achievements in transforming the culture of the live matchday experience should never be underestimated. Today there is a far greater emphasis on safety and customer care within Football League grounds. There is no suggestion of a return to the scenes witnessed in the 1970s and 1980s.

4.2 All Football League clubs are required to display the Ground Regulations of The Football League in order to compete in our competitions. This includes a responsibility to create a safe environment and manage the behaviour of football supporters at any match. For their part, supporters are required to comply with these regulations or face possible sanction. The League’s Ground Regulations state “abuse of a racist, homophobic or discriminatory nature will result in arrest and ejection from the ground.” Clubs have a number of sanctions available for dealing with those failing to comply, including short and long term supporter bans.

4.3 The stadium certificates at all Football League clubs require all stewards to be trained (or undergoing training) to NVQ Level 2. The Steward training is monitored and updated regularly and most recent revisions have ensured that there is a comprehensive section on dealing with all forms of discrimination including racism. The Safety Officer at each stadium has a legal responsibility for the safety, care and well-being of all spectators in the stadium.

4.4 Home Office statistics show that the number of arrests at football matches have been falling year on year and are currently at their lowest level since records began in 1984–85 season. More specifically, arrests at football matches for racial or indecent chanting (which may be non-racial in nature) have remained low with a total of sixteen arrests made at Football League matches either in or around the ground on a matchday during the 2010–11 season. Given that more than 17 million fans attended matches in Football League competitions last season, the statistics represent a tiny fraction of less than one in a million attendees. This is not to understate the importance of this issue but to ensure it is kept in perspective.

4.5 Every two years The Football League undertakes its Supporters Survey. Traditionally, this exercise has been the most comprehensive test of fan opinion in the domestic game. The most recent of these surveys, conducted in 2010, included a specific section on BAME supporters, with more than 300 contributing their views. The results suggested that BAME supporters were generally younger than those defining themselves as white British and, in comparison, were more likely to be influenced by their locality and less by parental influence and as such were more likely to attend the game with friends rather than family. BAME fans who did not regularly attend matches cited cheaper ticket prices as a major factor that would make them go to more games. Only a very small percentage said they would not consider attending a live match.

4.6 Attracting significant numbers of BAME supporters remains a major challenge for Football League clubs, even those based in diverse areas of inner cities. The Football League is committed to sharing best practice between clubs to ensure that those initiatives that prove successful can be applied more widely.

5. The Football League’s role in tackling racism

5.1 The Football League as an employer is committed to promoting and valuing diversity and eliminating all forms of discrimination, encompassing direct, indirect associative or perceptive discrimination. We strive to maintain an environment that is based on merit and inclusiveness and are committed to ensuring all people can develop their full potential, irrespective of age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion, or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage, civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity. The Football League has comprehensive policies that cover all areas of equality as well as a dedicated HR Manager who ensures that all aspects of HR policy and procedure are implemented in a fair and consistent manner.

5.2 The Football League has a customer charter which is available on the Football League website. The Charter contains an anti-discrimination policy that states:

The Football League seeks to ensure that spectators, players, officials and others involved at football matches and in football generally should be protected from discrimination, including that on the grounds of age, race or ethnic origin, religious belief, sexual orientation, disability, gender or any other unjustifiable reason.

The Football League promotes inclusion and is committed to working with partner agencies to provide education and information to promote inclusion.

The Football League has procedures to deal with any incidents of prejudice ensuring that those who believe they have been abused or treated unfairly can raise their issue through the channels explained in this charter.

If any complaint of this nature is received, The Football League will investigate, if appropriate with assistance from other football and statutory agencies, and make recommendations or change procedures as necessary.

5.3 Football League Regulations state that all Clubs must publish a Customer Charter which shall be made available to the public through all usual Club publications, the ticket office and the website. As part of the guidance issued to clubs on producing a Customer Charter the League states that clubs should include their anti-discrimination policy, in particular referencing discrimination on the grounds of race, disability, religion and belief, gender, sexual orientation and age. This should relate to both the behaviour towards supporters and stakeholders and to staffing policies at the club.

5.4 The Football League plays an active role in tackling racism in the football community. The League has a seat on the advisory board of Kick It Out which is held by the head of our customer service team. Whilst The League, does not fund Kick it Out directly, it does provide meaningful “in-kind” support through its clubs’ contribution to the organisation’s campaigns and initiatives. With its broadcasting revenue falling by 26% from the beginning of the 2012–13 season and club finances under significant pressure, The League is not in a position to make a direct financial contribution at the current time.

5.5 Football League Chairman, Greg Clarke, is personally engaged in The League’s anti-racism efforts, having represented the organisation and its clubs in discussions with stakeholders and at high profile events promoting inclusivity and diversity in football.

6. Looking ahead

6.1 The Football League recognises the importance of its role in challenging racism and promoting equality and diversity. It is constant dialogue with clubs to share best practice and improve the way we operate as a collective body.

6.2 The Football League is committed to a seminar programme that helps club stewards and their supervisors to deal with any incidents where they may occur at matches. The League will once again make clubs aware of the sanctions available to them and help to ensure their consistent application.

6.3 The Football League has accepted an offer from Garth Crooks and Weiss Chevalier for diversity training across all 72 Football League clubs, The League hopes to improve the understanding of players and coaching staff about the cultural environment in which they operate. The Football League will continue to work to ensure that players and staff at all levels of our clubs understand their responsibilities as role models within their communities.

6.4 The Football League is contributing to the COACH programme that aims to provide a bursary for BAME coaches, in order to assist them with gaining coaching qualifications. The Football League believes that in time this project will deliver an increase in BAME coaches in the English and Welsh professional game.

6.5 Through League Football Education, The Football League will continue its programme delivering equality training to apprentice footballers at clubs.

6.6 The Football League will continue its discussions with clubs regarding the diversity of managers they recruit. The importance of this issue was highlighted by League Chairman, Greg Clarke. In a recent interview with the Daily Mirror, he said: “I’m a great believer that sport, business and government should be representative of the societies they serve and there is an unacceptable disparity between the number of black players and black managers. The problem is people will say if they’re good enough, they will get there, but you have to create the opportunity. For example, if you look back a couple of years ago, the number of female directors in FTSE 100 companies wasn’t good enough. There were a lot of really, really good women who were not getting the opportunity to rise to the top. Pressure was put on those companies to improve and now more women are being given that opportunity.

February 2012

Prepared 18th September 2012