Racism in football back in the headlines

Chris Newby

Luis Suarez’s refusal to shake Patrice Evra’s hand at the start of the of the recent Manchester United v Liverpool match has brought the issue of racism in football back into the headlines.

Should Suarez have shaken Evra’s hand? Yes, if only to reduce the level of tension in an already charged atmosphere. But would that handshake have done anything to reduce the level of racism in football, of course not.

What motivated Liverpool FC’s US owners Fenway Sports Group and Liverpool’s chief sponsor Standard Chartered bank to put pressure on Suarez and Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish to make an apology?

Was it concerns over racism or concerns over the damage to the Liverpool ‘brand’ and therefore their profits.

Standard Chartered have put £81 million over four years into Liverpool, one of the biggest sponsorship deals in British football.

While the overt racism in football of 20-30 years ago may not be so apparent today, it is still there, as witnessed by the racist chanting at the recent Plymouth v Southend game. Micah Richards at Manchester City has had to shut down his Twitter account as a result of racist abuse.

But there is also still the establishment racism that exists in football. Only two out of 92 managers in the English football league are black and only a tiny handful of British born Asians are able to break into the professional game.

Racism in football is inextricably linked to racism in wider society and is not going to be removed by a handshake or the passing of some laws.

As former Liverpool and England player John Barnes, who suffered racial abuse during his football career, said in a recent interview on Talksport radio – you’re not going to stop someone from being racist just by introducing a law saying that they can’t be racist.

Racism in football will only be fundamentally challenged through mass campaigns involving fans, players, others who work in football and the local community.

This should explain, among other things, the root causes of racism and how it is used by the bosses to protect their profits by dividing people.