Culture, Media and Sport Committee - Racism in FootballWritten evidence submitted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Against Antisemitism



The FA has a good track record of combating racism in football, but like many bureaucratic bodies it is slow and over-cautious.

Systemic issues need addressing including the defective system of handling discrimination cases whereby the FA act as police, judge and executioner and the inability to enforce change at club level leading to cycles of abdication of responsibility.

There is a continuing gap in information, referees have no incentive to report incidents or turn up to hearings and rarely discover the outcome of hearings. Simplification is required.

A number of practical suggestions for further improving anti-racism activities have been made in the reports provided in the appendix—they should be considered.

Arrangements for periodic, strategic review of FA reporting systems should be introduced.

A number of good processes are in place to prepare for international tournaments, relevant anti-racism organisations and experts could however be better consulted and incorporated into forward-planning.

The FA should take a greater lead in FIFA and UEFA not just sharing best practice but demonstrating real leadership on issues of racism and antisemitism.

The FA should consider how they can work with clubs strategically and communicate websites like True Vision to supporters.

Creative thinking should be encouraged from all football authorities on demonstrating positive leadership, helping to reducing community tension and isolate its instigators.

Examples of football legislation should be examined for best practice.

1. The FA response to Antisemitism and Islamophobia

1.1 At the suggestion of community groups and members of its own Race Equality Advisory Group, the FA co-hosted a seminar of Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism with the Metropolitan Police on Thursday 3 April 2008. This was the first conference of its kind and highlighted some of the key issues for the FA, Police and local communities. Emanating from this conference was a project proposal for a clear, all-agency strategy to tackle Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in football together with a working group to oversee the process. The six key areas for consideration were: Referees, Policing, Stewarding, Monitoring of incidents, Reporting and sanctioning of incidents and Community engagement and involvement. There was particular emphasis on an effective system for collecting incident data.

1.2 The first meeting of the “tackling anti-semitism and islamophobia in football working group” (AS&I) was held at the FA offices on 18 September 2008, chaired by John Mann MP and introduced by Lord Triesman who gave the FA’s full backing to the project. Representatives from across the Jewish and Muslim communities were brought together with official football bodies and anti-racist groups. The AS&I group was tasked with providing tangible and specific recommendations to the FA’s Race Equality Advisory Group (REAG) which in turn would report to their Board (APPENDIX A).

1.3 Over the course of 2009, a number of consultation events took place including focus groups with the Muslim and Jewish Communities. In addition, John Mann visited a number of clubs looking for aspects of best practice including: The use of control rooms and loudspeakers in crowd control, stewarding, supporter information, responses to spectator abuse individually or collectively, community engagement at matches.

1.4 On Tuesday 9 February 2010, the FA hosted a second meeting of the AS&I Group at which three reports were tabled. The first two by Mr. Matt Ancell from the Metropolitan Police (APPENDIX B, C) provided details on reporting and managing allegations in the professional and grassroots game. His report on grassroots football noted that:

Governance and sanctions rest almost solely with the County Football Associations (CFA), under the guidance of The FA when dealing with incidents outside the Football Pyramid.

Often left to overworked volunteers to investigate complaints made by clubs in what is a complex disciplinary procedure.

The FA must take a more central role when dealing with such issues and consider a whole new specific procedure when dealing with discriminatory complaints by grassroots football teams.

His report on the professional game included the suggestion that:

Consideration should also be given for some stewards to be fitted with cameras and microphones to be able to detect crowd problems and particular incidents. When convicting the Crown Prosecution Service need sufficient evidence to obtain a Banning Order.

The United Kingdom Policing Football Unit should have the responsibility of collating all reported hate crime incidents on match days categorised down to specific types ie homophobic, Islamophobic

In addition, a report was tabled by John Mann MP (APPENDIX D) which the FA promised to consider and respond to. Amongst his suggestions were:

Investment in new Technology like text message reporting, steward head cameras, high resolution CCTV and recordings of abusive fans and tense areas—to catch the perpetrators of abuse in the stadium.

Independent tribunals for racism and discrimination cases.

Restructure the FA Council to reflect the diversity of society and make local positions available for aspiring black, Asian, Jewish and ethnic minority volunteers.

A Red card for abusive parents on the touchline.

1.5 In January 2011, during the backbench business committee debate on antisemitism (20 January 2011, Official Report, Column 334WH/335WH) John Mann MP called on the FA to respond to his report following a lull in activity. This led to renewed communications and in March 2011 the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism volunteered to help co-ordinate an international conference on reporting and tackling discrimination in football. As a result, the FA ran a scaled down special conference on reporting Discrimination on 9 November 2011 for members of the various FA advisory groups and other UK stakeholders at Wembley. It was announced that a public facing guide to reporting discrimination would be produced for 2012–13.

1.6 Following the aforementioned conference on reporting discrimination, a letter was distributed to members of the AS&I group with the FA response to John Mann’s report (APPENDIX E). The response outlined a number of existing programmes of the FA, but highlighted the fact that ultimately, under FA Regulations, the Clubs are responsible for the behaviour of their members, spectators and supporters. Thus action to deal with abusive parents is left in the main to the clubs themselves. Their response did note however that:

The FA will undertake a survey with County FAs in relation to discrimination cases and explore the concept of Independent Tribunals (independent of the specific County FA) through the Disciplinary Department and make the reporting process more transparent.

1.7 The FA subsequently closed the AS&I group and passed responsibility to the Race Equality Advisory Group for the monitoring of the implementation of the AS&I report and the Faith in Football group and Asians in football (women and men) now take on the delivery of practical inclusion projects to showcase best practice on the ground.

1.8 The experience of working with the FA has highlighted to us that British football has an authority it can be proud of with sound rules and regulations. However, like many bureaucratic bodies it is slow and lacks the ability to think and act radically. The initial impetus for a wide-ranging cross agency strategy to be overseen by a working group diminished and less cumbersome action points have been rolled into existing structures. It is possible to deduce therefore that some of the problems with the FA are systemic. In particular:

They act as police, judge and executioner in dealing with discrimination which is a defective system of operation.

There is a continuing gap in information, referees have no incentive to report incidents or turn up to hearings and rarely discover the outcome of hearings. Simplification is required.

They can’t enforce change at club-level which leads to cycles of abdication of responsibility.

There is no system for a periodic, strategic review of their systems with procedures being monitored “on an ongoing basis”.

Having earned a reputation for facing down racism, they should be praised for their action in the face of high profile racist incidents. However, it is important to guard against complacency. The Written evidence submitted by the League Managers Association (FG 38) to this committee’s inquiry into football governance points to a possible in the sector:

“Racial abuse has now thankfully been all but eradicated from our stadia, thanks to the Kick it Out campaign and the The FA’s Ethics and Sports Equity Strategy.”

2. The Euro 2012 Tournament and Implications for the UK

2.1 In the summer of 2012, the European football championships will be held jointly between Poland and the Ukraine. The world’s attention will be in part directed to sport with the 2012 Olympics to follow almost immediately.

2.2 As has been noted in numerous television, magazine and web-based reports there is a solid and growing far-right “white power” movement tied to football hooliganism in many countries, notably Poland and the Ukraine.1 The anti-racist organisation “Never Again” together with Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) has highlighted the levels of racism in both Polish and Ukrainian football. Their report entitled “Hateful” (APPENDIX F) covers the period from September 2009 to March 2011, detailing 195 individual incidents involving football in Poland and Ukraine. The authors highlight denial of the problem as a key issue in the region.

2.3 In the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) country report on Ukraine of 2008, they cite rising antisemitism as a concern. Details of best practice and highlights of the worst incidents are detailed in the report by John Mann MP and Johnny Cohen: “Antisemitism In European Football: A Scar on the Beautiful Game” (APPENDIX G) Despite these efforts to highlight the problem, much of the far-right activity goes under-reported and unchallenged.

2.4 Unfortunately, there are insufficient resources for UK police or football regulatory bodies to tackle this problem effectively, in so far as it effects home country participation in and enjoyment of the tournament. As chair of the APPG Against Antisemitism, John Mann MP set about trying to identify the key problems and suggest solutions for the relevant UKauthorities.

2.5 In October 2010, John Mann visited Poland. He met key Parliamentarians and officials at the Polish Football Association, Ministry of sport, Parliamentary Sport Committee and sub-committee on euro2012. It was his assessment that whilst the Polish were prepared in general terms for the tournament and had some sensible procedures in place, there were some worrying signs of the potential for trouble. In particular:

Racism is under-reported in the national Polish game. Incidents are relayed through referee’s match-day reports with no other monitoring in place. Attendance is low which tends to exacerbate the problem.

Organised hooliganism and gang-violence remains a significant problem, the less-travelled suburban line to Auschwitz features far-right, white power slogans often together with the words “Jews out” daubed at nearly every station. The supporters club for one Polish team offered to organise a fight to demonstrate their ability to orchestrate violence.

The views of some Polish extremist fans (“ultras”) that English fans might be worthy as opponents in organised fights given the high profile history of hooliganism in the game.

2.6 In April 2011, John Mann visited the UEFA headquarters in Geneva and met with senior officials. He highlighted a number of concerns:

Their inability to effectively link-in with grass-roots anti-racism campaigns in the host nations-whilst the FARE/Never Again/UEFA programmes are to be welcomed, they are often viewed by local community groups as being imposed upon them with little consultation.

Their view that security was a problem for inside the stadium, without a position on the surrounding areas pre and post-match.

Poor provision of educational (particularly Holocaust memorial) material for fans.

2.7 In June 2011 John Mann visited the Ukraine, calling on the National agency for euro2012 preparation, the Minister for football, Parliamentarians and anti-racist groups. Their preparedness was judged to be worse than that of Poland. In particular concerns surrounded:

Multiple points of authority in-stadium on match day, leading to confusion when action is required.

Insufficient thought put into reporting mechanisms in stadia, fan-zones or elsewhere for victims of racism.

Lack of thought put into monitoring online racist organising.

2.8 Following his visits, John Mann wrote to UEFA to highlight his concerns and at the same time to FIFA about some outstanding concerns he had in relation to their disciplinary procedures (APPENDIX H, I, J, K). The response from UEFA was reassuring, whilst FIFA sent contradictory responses. This points to confusion at the top-level, which does not set a suitable standard for national football associations to follow.

2.9 Meetings with the FA and other relevant sector bodies throughout this period highlighted some of the key UK preparations for the tournament. UK expertise had been shared with the host countries, the British embassies had been well briefed and were already preparing themselves and some of the thinking about the England team programme was already in place

2.10 On 25 January 2012, a delegation from the Hope Not Hate Campaign, the Community Security Trust (CST) and Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) led by John Mann MP met with football Minister Hugh Robertson MP to suggest a potential solution to pre-empt any trouble at the tournament. The Minister appeared supportive of efforts to embed a small team within the existing structures of the FA to provide expertise and support on the ground during the tournament. The FA whilst receptive to such an arrangement has yet to act on it. In addition, discussion focussed on an appropriate memorial of the Holocaust by the team and supporters.

2.11 There are a number of key lessons and implications for the UK which can be drawn from the experiences of researching the preparations for the 2012 tournament:

A number of good processes are in place to prepare for international tournaments, relevant anti-racism organisations and experts could however be better consulted and incorporated into forward-planning.

The FA should take a greater lead in FIFA not just sharing best practice but demonstrating real leadership on issues of racism and antisemitism.

3. Leadership, Reporting & Best Practice

3.1 On 7 February the APPG Against Antisemitism will be helping to launch True Vision, a website at in Parliament. The website went live in February 2011 and has had 56,000 visitors who view an average of 8 pages each. The site offers information to victims, downloadable resources and the ability to report crimes online. To date over 1,300 reports have been made to the site with just over 300 of these relating to Internet offences. The website has had no direct marketing and relies on links to existing websites and on search engines.

3.2 The reporting of hate crime and presumably the presence of hate material has a direct correlation to events that receive public attention. There are people who use even the most tragic situations to develop their own bigotries and the Internet provides a perfect place where anonymous and insidious views can be shared in relative safety. However we are all too aware that the damage caused undermines community cohesion and promotes tension. Recent history has demonstrated to us the importance of football in setting the tone for such tensions. Whilst often these tensions do not directly relate to football issues the emotional bond and almost tribal allegiance held by many supporters can be a catalyst for extreme behaviour in those with a propensity to violence.

3.3 An example of the link between football and external tensions was the summer disorder of 2001 in the northern towns of England. Whilst the Inquiry report highlighted many contributing factors the trigger incident for the first violent confrontation was an attack on an area of Oldham by a group of football supporters had linked up with far right extremists angered by media stories which did not relate to football.

3.4 Whilst football authorities and clubs can clearly not be held accountable for the actions of violent individuals who use their club name is the commit violent acts, which are nothing to do with the club, There is a real opportunity for clubs and individuals to use their significant influence over followers to promote positive images and provide real leadership over disaffected individuals who often lack positive role models. This does happen, but perhaps recent events have demonstrated the need to understand the impact that activity on the field has in the communities.

3.5 The allegations of racism in recent months are well documented, but some of the reactions of individuals to the incidents is not so well understood. In particular the disagreements that followed them, as played out in the media have led to a perceived increase in hateful material on the Internet, particularly racism. Most notable has been the Twitter comments, which are often relatively invisible as they are limited to people who “follow” the writer. The significant incident here appears to be that Stan Collymore, who has over 200,000 followers was so offended by some of the racist material that he highlighted and thereby attention to the material.

3.6 32 people separately reported to True Vision racist material which targeted Patrice Evra that they believed was illegal. By way of perspective, True Vision would only expect to receive five to seven hate crime reports per week.

3.7 There is much that can be done to help combat such hatred. The timing to act appears perfect as we approach two huge sporting events that will bring the focus of the world on Europe and the UK, but also because our Government and police leadership have stated commitment to increase the recording, but reduce the incidence of hate crime.

3.8 True Vision is not the only resource available. The Baddiel brothers Ivor and David have produced a film “the Y Word” which our group also helped to promote. There is an educational pack which accompanies the film all of which can be found via the Kick-It out website. The film addresses the chanting of the word “Yid” and the racism and antisemitism that such chanting can promote.

3.9 The Scottish Parliament voted through legislation on offensive behaviour at football matches. It would be useful to look at the lessons learned from that legislative process and to speak to the police in Scotland about their requirement for extra powers.2

3.10 A number of good resources are available and should be promoted:

The FA should consider how they can work with clubs strategically and communicate websites like True Vision to supporters.

Creative thinking should be encouraged from all football authorities about demonstrating positive leadership, helping to reducing community tension and isolate its instigators.
Examples of football legislation should be examined for best practice

January 2012

1 See (i),7340,L-3931288,00.html
(iv) for examples


Prepared 18th September 2012