Culture, Media and Sport Committee - Racism in FootballWritten evidence submitted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport

1. The Department is pleased to respond to the Select Committee’s call for evidence on the subject of racism in football.

2. Racism has many forms from verbal racial abuse aimed towards players, managers and supporters, to indirect and institutional discrimination all of which can result in specific minority ethnic communities being excluded, to a greater or lesser degree, from football. In all forms this is unacceptable behaviour. Of course racism is not a problem of football’s making, but, because of the game’s popularity, it has a disproportionate effect on it compared to other sports and walks of life. Football is the national game. It has enormous resonance, and should be enjoyed by people of all ages from all different backgrounds.

3. It is our belief that football in this country has moved on considerably in the last two decades. If we recollect where football was at the end of the 1980s in terms of racism, the abuse that black players and supporters had to endure is markedly different from what we see with today’s game. Where we are today—which is not without problems, but demonstrably in a completely different place—has been the result of the dedication, skill and professionalism of people in the Football Associations, the Leagues, of supporters, players, the police, anti-racism campaigners and many others.

4. It is with credit that the football family has stood united on the issue of racism and in doing so has contributed to making, racism the exception, rather than the rule at football matches. During the 2010–11 football season over 36 million spectators attended 3,100 competitive and friendly matches. In total local police recorded just 61 incidents of “hate crime” inside and outside of football stadia.1 This categorisation of hate crimes includes racist and homophobic chanting or behaviour, incidents involving ethnic minority fans or local residents, the distribution of racist materials, and other racist or extreme right wing activity. The incidents recorded usually involved individuals, as opposed to groups of fans, and are low level public order offences.

5. The creation of an offence of racist “chanting” at football grounds in the Football Offences Act 1991 has helped send a new hard-line determination to tackle racism in football, and football stadia are now well equipped with CCTV, enabling real-time identification of disorderly behaviour as it occurs, but in truth only through the hard work of local police forces, the clubs, and the dedicated training of stewards will racist offences committed in connection with football be picked up and dealt with in the appropriate manner.

6. We are sure that through this inquiry you will receive considerable evidence of how football, collectively, has made giant strides towards breaking down barriers and prejudices that were all so evident in the sport. In particular, we would like to draw attention to the work of the Commission for Racial Equality, and to the “Kick it Out” and “Show Racism the Red Card” anti-racism campaigns. These campaigns in particular, have taken a stance and with that carried a clear message to all those involved in our national game that any kind of discriminatory behaviour will not be tolerated. With the help of the UK’s leading football bodies, the Football Association, Premier League and the Professional Footballers Association, they have successfully challenged discrimination, encouraged inclusive practices, and worked for positive change. We are extremely appreciative of their efforts to do so.

7. We are also delighted that the scope and scale of the Kick It Out campaign has shifted with the footballing landscape, and matters concerning gender, sexual orientation, religion and disability are now as much a part of their remit as race and skin colour were back in 1993.

8. The Kick It Out message also plays a leading role in the Football Against Racism in Europe network and has been cited as an example of good practice by the European governing body UEFA, the world governing body FIFA, the Council of Europe, the European Commission, European parliamentarians and the British Council. We can be proud that other countries are looking to England to emulate our achievements.

9. At the same time, there is absolutely no room for self-satisfaction. Racist chanting aimed at players and managers although less common, has not disappeared altogether. Many of us will have been concerned by recent events, involving fellow professional players and by a minority section of supporters at some clubs. Whilst we believe these incidents are not common in football today, the very fact that they have coincided demonstrates just how important it is that the sternest action is taken to stamp these out at the earliest opportunity. The merest suggestion that we risk slipping back and undoing the great work that’s been done is unthinkable.

10. It is this Department’s belief that FIFA as the world governing body for the sport must lead the way in taking a stance against racism. The recent comments by the FIFA President Sepp Blatter about black players, following similar remarks made by his senior officials regarding Jewish and homosexual people are completely unacceptable and go against modern societies thinking. We call on FIFA again to prove they truly have a zero tolerance toward all forms of discrimination in the game.

11. At the domestic level the Football Association has responsibility for tackling racism at all levels of the game. Furthermore, we welcome and strongly support the steps they have taken in recent weeks in conjunction with the Leagues to fully utilise the powers at their disposal to tackle all forms of racial prejudice they uncover. This was recently evident in the lengthy ban handed to the Liverpool player Luis Suarez, and also the decision to discharge the England captaincy from John Terry while the court case surrounding him continues.

12. As the national game, football has exceptional reach into every community in this country. It is therefore able to deliver important benefits to the wider society outside the game itself and can play a big part in helping to remould or instil the values we want to see in our communities and particularly in our young people. Our football governing bodies, their clubs and footballers themselves have a vital role to play as role models for the rest of society in setting the example of what is not acceptable in terms of racial attitudes and behaviour.

13. The Football Associations RESPECT campaign is an important part of that process going forward, and the Government continues to encourage the football authorities to strengthen this campaign that aims to give everyone involved in football the collective responsibility to create a fair, safe and enjoyable environment in which the game can take place.

14. Clearly, however, there is more that can be done to encourage more people from BME communities into the sport as players, coaches and spectators. Both the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have been vocal for example, in their calls for an improvement in the number of black managers and coaches in English football. In addition, there must be more done to encourage more British Asians players to take up the sport if football is to lay claim to be a sport that is truly inclusive of all race. To help address this, the Department has recently announced that it will be contributing £3 million towards the FA’s new National Coaching Centre, St George’s Park. This facility will be used to help increase the number of qualified coaches in the country, which along with other specific initiatives, will encourage more people from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds to gain the necessary credentials for coaching and managerial positions at the top of the game. Set to open later this year, St George’s Park in Burton will become the base for English football to develop coaches, players, administrators and officials.

15. The Department believes greater diversity of Boards which govern our national game would also help provide a service for under-represented participant groups who may feel that they do not have the opportunity to play, manage or coach. The recent move by the Football Association to appoint Heather Rabbatts as its first female and BME independent non-executive on the Board is an important moment and represents a significant change in their governance structures. This has come about in part as a result of the pressure for governance reform of the Football Association that the Department and the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee, through its inquiry into football governance have managed to exert on the football authorities.

16. Through Sport England, the Department will ensure that all sports, that receive public funding for grassroots development, do so, on the basis of their compliance with the Equality Standard for Sport. The standard is applied across the UK by Sport England, UK Sport, Sport Scotland, Sport Wales and Sport Northern Ireland through the Sports Council Equality Group. There is a clear expectation that all sports have awareness about the issue of racism and where they recognise problems, to actively work towards resolving this. To assist this, guidance on how governing bodies of sport should deal with incidents of racial abuse in competitive sport settings is provided.

17. Sport England also continues to invest in Sporting Equals and the work it does with National Sports Bodies and professional clubs to improve playing and coaching opportunities for people with BME Backgrounds, with specific courses structured around their needs. There are a number of examples where Sporting Equals has worked productively with football clubs, but we would like to draw particular attention to their current involvement with Liverpool FC in helping that club to reduce the negative perception and impact to the club that results from racism in the stands and on the pitch. This includes working with all those involved in the club to ensure policy and practices are in place that promote equality and diversity and ultimately make club environments more welcoming.

18. Sporting Equals has extended its remit in recent years to specialise across all strands of equality and diversity (including race and faith, sexuality, disability, gender and age) in sport. The insight, knowledge and expertise they bring to the issues around discrimination are key to unlocking the barriers that exist.

19. To this effect we believe more work is also needed to tackle other forms of racial discrimination, such as, anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia in the game. There have been far too many examples of this in recent years for us to claim that these are isolated incidents. We applaud the work that John Mann MP and the All Party Parliamentary Group he chairs on this subject has done working closely with football to bring these issues to light, and to challenge football and society as whole to rid them.

20. As recent events have shown racism in any form is illegal. All sections of society are subject to the provisions of antidiscrimination and criminal law. Football is no different. The game has a responsibility to ensure its affairs are conducted in accordance with the law and to take any additional steps that may be necessary to keep itself free from racism in all its forms.

21. The Department therefore welcomes the decision by the Select Committee to look at this time at how far football has come in dealing with racism in the game, and what lessons it can learn for how it should deal with current events to ensure these are kept to an absolute minimum. As demonstrated by the Downing Street summit hosted by the Prime Minister and involving leading figures in football on 22 February, the Government is also keen to be at the forefront of those discussions, and furthermore, has pledged its full support to working with football to find ways to further tackle discrimination within the sport. As an action, we have asked the football authorities—the Premier League, Football League and the Football Association—to work together on a planned way forward and to report that back to us before the start of the next football season.

February 2012

1 Figures provided by the Home Office’s UK Football Policing Unit.

Prepared 18th September 2012