Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/741/15647
Football: Showing racism the red card
Newspaper sports pages are filled with debate about racism in the 'beautiful game' or the 'ugly game' as the Sunday Mirror (4 November) now calls football.
The paper published a ComRes opinion poll that says 76% of football fans want tougher punishments for racist behaviour though 57% think it is impossible to remove racism from football. Manny Dominguez comments.
The case surrounding Chelsea and England footballer John Terry shows how serious an issue racism is at the game's highest level and among the best-paid stars. This case also shows that the game's top brass is unable to deal with the problem.
On 27 July, a Football Association (FA) disciplinary hearing found John Terry guilty of "using abusive language" towards QPR's Anton Ferdinand last October, which "included a reference to colour and/or race".
The FA Independent Regulatory Commission ruled on 27 September that Terry, the Chelsea captain, would serve a four-game ban and pay a £220,000 fine.
On hearing that the FA was keeping on with its own charges, Terry stepped down from international football.
Last December the Crown Prosecution Service charged Terry, who was dropped as England captain. However England's former manager Fabio Capello made the questionable decision to drop Rio Ferdinand (Anton's brother) from the England team for John Terry for the Euro 2012 matches.
Terry's court appearance, postponed until after the Euros, found Terry not guilty beyond reasonable doubt. With court proceedings finished, the FA then charged Terry with using abusive language.
But many players and fans feel these penalties are too lenient. A bad tackle can earn a player a three-match ban.
Other players have faced harsher penalties for equally abhorrent racist jibes. In the Luis Suarez/Patrice Evra incident last October, Suarez was fined £40,000 and faced an eight-match ban.
Most fans worry less about the fines than the bans from playing in the team - these guilty players cost their clubs results on the pitch.
This divided fans' opinions of the likes of Terry and Suarez. It sticks in the throat when clubs defend their players' irresponsible actions.
This inevitably fuels the unthinking loyalty many fans have in vocally defending their club's guilty heroes as victims.
The football authorities encourage players to simply shake hands and hope racism will disappear. Many black players were so incensed by what happened in the past year and by the ineffectiveness of the 'Kick it Out' campaign that many chose not to wear the campaign's shirts on the Kick it Out Day of Action, embarrassing their respective clubs.
The England under-21 team's recent away victory over Serbia, overshadowed by the home crowd's racial abuse of monkey chants towards Danny Rose, added to the fury.
Such chants were also heard from the visiting Lazio ultras this September, victimising black Spurs players in their Europa League draw.
Reading striker Jason Roberts rightly lead the move, along with Anton and Rio Ferdinand, not to wear the 'Kick it out' shirts.
They wanted to 'call to arms' the PFA (the players' union) and the football authorities who have dragged their feet on the issue.
PFA action plan
The PFA responded by producing a six-point action plan that included speeding up dealing with complaints of racism; consideration of stiffer penalties for racist abuse; monitoring the proportion of black coaches and managers with moves to ensure black candidates make interview shortlists.
They also talked of making racial abuse gross misconduct and so potentially a sackable offence. PFA chief executive, Gordon Taylor also called for football to deal with other equality issues such as gender, sexual orientation, disability, anti-semitism, anti-Muslim prejudice and the small number of Asians in football.
Then it was alleged that Mark Clattenburg, the referee in Chelsea's defeat by Manchester United on 28 October, racially insulted Chelsea's Mikel John Obi during the game.
In a separate incident in the same game a match-day steward was injured in a surge from Chelsea fans.
Coins and other missiles were thrown from the stands. This came days after a Leeds fan ran onto the pitch to assault Sheffield Wednesday's keeper Chris Kirkland.
These are wake-up calls to fans, and to the FA and the Premier League, who merely view racism and hooliganism in football as damaging their shiny happy-clappy image.
The anti-racist message in football must be campaigned for boldly. The PFA, Football Supporters Federation (FSF) and Kick Racism Out Of Football must also clearly explain that racism is a wider problem in society.
Clubs cannot simply say that racism comes from lack of education or 'multicultural' awareness, but must probe deeper.
Large layers of society feel stuck in a rut; long working hours, the threat of redundancy, mass unemployment, poverty and a general feeling of hopelessness all fuel resentment.
In towns that are in great decline where mass resignation is rife, football becomes the only beacon of hope for some.
EDL and others
Racist organisations such as the English Defence League can take advantage where the traditional party of the working class, the Labour Party, has failed to channel that anger at those responsible for the attacks on working class living conditions.
Racism, homophobia and sexism, all prevalent in football, are products of the unequal society we live in.
If we want to kick racism or any other prejudice out of football we must fight for a more equal society - a socialist society.
This means fighting for jobs, fair pay, affordable homes for all and accessible decent services, so we need industrial action to stop the Con-Dem government's crippling austerity policies.
We should also fight for the unions to break with Labour and build a new political party to represent the working class.
Reclaim the Game
The death of the people's game - the great Premier League swindle
by John Reid
This edition deals with: Greedy footballers, overpriced tickets, racism on the field of play, Manchester United offshore Plc, Pompey and Glasgow Rangers' debt crises.
Pre-order the new edition for £3 including postage from Socialist Books, PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD
Order online: www.leftbooks.co.uk; Ring to pay by card: 020 8988 8789
In The Socialist 7 November 2012: