Naked Politics Blogger
Following an incredible 2018, support for England’s national football team is at its highest for over a decade. Yet despite the manner of their latest victory over Montenegro in Podgorica, a familiar recurring problem overshadowed the game; racist abuse from football fans.
In the midst of all the public and media outrage that surrounded this, a very thought-provoking perspective was put forward by John Barnes. He claims that much of what is being said is hypocritical and that banning Montenegro or some equivalent action will not solve the issue because racism first and foremost is a societal issue. He also rightly points out that it hasn’t been eradicated in the UK, let alone the rest of Europe.
But does that make holding other countries to account over there position on racism futile?
Kick It Out, a football equality charity reported an increase in discrimination between the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons and over half of the incidences were classified as racism. There
However, racism in football and other sports is not exclusively a UK issue.
In Italy, Kalidou Koulibaly, a Senegalese footballer, was subjected to monkey chants by sections of the Inter Milan fanbase in a game that made a mockery of UEFA’s anti-racism protocols.
Before the 2018 world cup, Russia saw a rise in racist and homophobic chants involving abuse aimed not just at foreign teams and players but against naturalised Russians as well.
In Brazil and Sweden, BAME players were subject to abuse simply because their team lost in a major tournament.
Worryingly, Germany, like many countries, has denied racism as a general problem despite three men being arrested in a recent friendly match for such abuse and the mourning of a neo-Nazi in a lower league game.
Further evidence that sports governing bodies need to do more in the fight against racism comes in the mixed response from the footballers themselves. Whilst Sterling has taken the role of
Such attitudes hinder the tackling of racism in football because they are supposed to be role models so fans with racists attitudes may feel empowered to continue racist abuse. As is the case with society, the footballing community will be divided over the importance of the issue and ways to tackle racism, so I believe it’s up to sports governing bodies to present a new message in the fight against racism.
One final reason that it is up to the governing bodies to act on the latest spout of racist incidents in football stadiums is that it needs to exert strong leadership and show it can deal with crises in this sport.
A number of solutions have been suggested by FIFA and UEFA in dealing with racism, including stadium closures, fines and more recently, pitch walkouts. Nevertheless, they continue to react to incidents of racism rather than having a clear, coherent and proactive strategy. The leadership that is required to tackle racism in football can come from society, exemplified by Raheem Sterling. However, without the support of the governing bodies, real change in attitudes may not occur.
Racism in sport is still a massive problem in the UK but it is at least as big a problem in the rest of Europe and beyond. Furthermore, whilst racism does still need to be tackled in society,