UEFA and the FA have long presented themselves as organisations who, not only condemn all forms of racism within football, but do everything in their power to combat it.
A quick internet search of UEFA’s standing on the issue is prevalent, we’re given an array of messages regarding their ‘No To Racism’ campaign.
So why is it, in 2018, racism is still a problematic issue, evident throughout football, not only in this country but across Europe.
While readers may assume I’m speaking in regards to the so-called fans and players, I’m also speaking about UEFA and why, after years of pledging to combat this behaviour, they don’t seem to be making any progress?
Since 2001, UEFA are said to have forged a close partnership with the FARE network – groups and bodies working against intolerance and discrimination across the continent.
As stated on the UEFA website:
The campaign to eliminate racism, discrimination and intolerance from football has become a major priority for UEFA in recent years – and the European body makes full use of its high-profile platforms to send out a key and unequivocal message: No to Racism.
In recent months, we’ve heard more and more revelations from those who feel enough isn’t being done – for example, Liverpool’s 17-year-old forward, Rhian Brewster. His account of racial abuse is hugely concerning.
2017 has been a massive year for me personally, would like to say thank you to everyone for their support on and off the pitch, hopefully 2018 is somehow even better and I can do more of what I love! ? Happy New year! pic.twitter.com/F1olzTcXBs
— Rhian Brewster (@RhianBrewster9) December 31, 2017
Brewster revealed to The Guardian, how he vividly remembers one of his team-mates being called a ‘monkey’ by an opposition player during their World Cup Final against Spain in October 2017, as well as being called ‘a n****r’ during a UEFA Youth game against Spartak Moscow.
At the time he also stated his views on UEFA, saying:
I don’t think UEFA take this thing seriously. They don’t really care. That’s how it feels anyway, like it’s been brushed under the carpet.
Worryingly, today (Wednesday March 7), UEFA confirmed they’ve dropped charges against the Spartak captain, Lenoid Mironov.
In a statement they said:
The inspector took statements from five players from both teams, as well as from two match officials, who were in the vicinity of the alleged incident. None of these heard any discriminatory words.
Leonid Mironov was also interviewed by the inspector and stated he indeed swore at Rhian Brewster, but he unreservedly denied using any discriminatory language.
After concluding his investigation, the inspector found no evidence to corroborate the allegations, which he believed were made in complete good faith by the Liverpool player Rhian Brewster.
Therefore, the UEFA control, ethics and disciplinary body, following the recommendation of the inspector, established that there was no evidence that would legally support sanctioning the Spartak Moskva youth player Leonid Mironov and thus decided to close the disciplinary proceedings.
— Eniola Aluko (@EniAlu) September 24, 2017
Racist incidents are still frequently occurring – even in the UK, where we’ve become more diverse and supposedly forward-thinking. In Europe, well, it appears to be as rife as ever.
On Thursday night, (February 22), Chelsea’s Michy Batshuayi – who’s currently on loan at Borussia Dortmund – says he was racially abused during Borussia Dortmund’s Europa League victory at Atalanta.
The Belgium international made the claim on Twitter following his side’s 1-1 draw:
— Michy Batshuayi (@mbatshuayi) February 22, 2018
Roisin Wood, Chief Executive Officer at Kick It Out, told UNILAD incidents of discrimination – including racist and homophobic abuse – have increased by 59 per cent within the Premier League and English Football League compared to this time last year.
In recent months, we’ve had; Eni Aluko’s revelations about England manager Mark Sampson, Boxing Day 2017 saw the Championship match between Millwall and Wolverhampton Wanderers blighted by reports of ‘racist chanting by Millwall supporters’ and in October – during a Champions League match – Roma were charged over ‘monkey chants’ directed towards Antonio Rüdiger, now of Chelsea.
These are just a tiny snippet of the abuse which is taking place within the sport.
Before Rüdiger’s departure from Roma, he told the German sports magazine SportBild:
Racism is a serious issue here. Incidents like the ones with [Juventus’s Medhi] Benatia and me simply happen too often in this country and that is why something must happen now.
When the Italian FA is not doing anything then Fifa must act. It is easy to come up with the No to Racism campaign but when you don’t do anything concrete then that does not help.
Rüdiger’s comments mirror other accounts of players who feel the governing bodies are doing far too little in combating the issue of racism.
However, it’s a complex issue as to why it’s still prevalent in today’s game as Kick It Out explained to UNILAD:
If it’s happening in society, it’s happening in football.
Football sits right in the middle of society so the rise in hate crime which we know is happening in society is reflected in the sport.
We published our mid-season reporting statistics – because we’re a reporting bureau – and they’re up 59 per cent. People ask whether it’s because people are more confident about reporting or whether it’s due to their being more discrimination – the answer is both.
We know there’s a rise in hate crime and antisemtism in society – it’s reflected in football.
As an organisation we want to work really hard – with the FA, other football bodies, the clubs and the leagues – to actually make sure this doesn’t come back into football the way it used to happen, 20, 25, 30 years ago.
As racism is such a wide-spread problem, much debate has focused on how it should be dealt with, yet Kick It Out revealed to UNILAD the one factor pivotal to their cause:
Education sits at the heart of everything we do – we deliver all the education training in every single Premier League and Football League academy.
It’s always been about education. It’s about educating players, managers and fans – especially young fans.
We’re less interested in criminalising young people but more interested in trying to educate them and subsequently, becoming peer educators.
Self-policing is one initiative Kick It Out believes needs to continue among fans:
If you can go to a game, be passionate about football, hear something discriminatory and be able to turn around to fellow fans and say: ‘Look, I don’t want to hear that sort of discriminatory chanting, here in my football club’, it’s a very powerful message.
Challenging any form of discrimination is about education, empowering people to act – to report it – or to challenge, (where it’s appropriate).
It’s also about having strong role models and ambassadors who can say, ‘Our passion is football, we don’t want to hear or see that type of thing’.
Kick It Out state UEFA and the FA are ‘critical in the part they play’ when it comes to stamping out discrimination in football, but acknowledge how ‘all of us, every single part of football, can do more:
Yes the FA have done great things, but they still need to do more. It’s not one person or one organisation responsible for discrimination in football though.
We all have our part to play, whether it’s the FA, the Premier League, the EFL, fans, players, managers – everybody has to because it takes all of us to change – it takes all of us to make a difference.
We get frustrated but we also believe, if we can work with various organisations and educate them, by working together, then we can make a difference.
For the persistent and prolific offenders, punishment in the form of bans is considered the best way, but Kick It Out state ‘everything has to be contextualised’.
Despite telling UNILAD ‘it’s hard to give a single answer in terms of reprimands’, I feel it’s evident fines are not enough – especially for the clubs where money is not an issue.
They tell us each individual case ‘has to be in context’ and ‘in response to the seriousness of what’s happening and where it has the biggest impact’.
For someone who’s an avid football fan, the intensity of racism within the game appears to be hightened in Europe and something I have witnessed first-hand.
As to why this is, deserves it’s own attention, but Kick It Out explained:
In England, we’ve had to grasp the issue and we’ve been doing it for 25 years – Kick It Out celebrates it’s 25th birthday in August – and we’ve had to push, cajole and educate the whole football bodies – and we continue to do that – but this needs to be happening with all European clubs as well.
Unless you have the commitment from the European FA’s, clubs and players, you won’t change it – it has to be a whole game approach.
We see significantly more discrimination in and around more of the European countries and they have to start really pushing hard as to how they challenge it – we’ve seen a lot of English clubs travel abroad who’ve had their players racially discriminated against.
Football is such a powerful tool, especially when it comes to equality, inclusion and cohesion and like other high-profile sports, it has the ability to reach areas where other things aren’t as successful.
Organisations such as Kick It Out want to ensure the game takes its responsibility seriously so it can eradicate racism all together in the future.
As they told UNILAD:
It’s a strong view but we believe we can actually change people’s views about football and change the sport to be the force of good that it is or rather can be.
It has been time for change for too long, now is the time for real action.