At every level of the game, from five-a-side to Premier League to World Cup, it’s down to every player, coach, ref and fan to know what racism looks like and how to tackle it.
There are times when it feels like racism in sport dominates the news as much as the results do and it has a knock-on effect on the entire sport and future generations of hopefuls. Some progress has been seen recently, with associations and governing bodies around the world stepping up to start putting their money where their mouths are and stamp out racism with a firm boot.
But it’s the awareness that can sometimes elude us, and we can only be aware if we educate ourselves. It’s only by listening to people with lived experiences – as well as our intrinsic sense of moral decency – that we can do better. The five sports councils of the UK published in two reports in June 2021 under the Tackling Racism and Racial Inequality in Sport review. It uncovered that racism and racial inequalities are still prevalent in sport and that ethnically diverse communities are being consistently disadvantaged. The review heavily supports “ongoing training and education to understand racism and the impact it has on individuals and our sector.”
Accelerate Sport’s new online course, Tackling Racism in Sport, can help you in very short space of time learn what racism really is, and recognise and challenge micro-aggressions and negative stereotyping both on and off the pitch. It’ll also explain the laws, such as the Equality Act 2010, that exist to prevent discrimination of ethnic minority communities and individuals, showing how you can proactively ensure it stays out of your club.
Love football, not racism
Former footballer, coach, referee, and high school teacher, Nana Baah, believes strongly that more needs to be done to educate people (both young and old) about sensitivity towards racial differences. He has found through his entire career that he’s had to face unequal opportunities to his peers, having to try harder and go the long way around to achieve the same as others. One of our case studies on the eLearning course, Nana tells us of the times he’s experienced racial slurs, been treated differently in the changing room, right down to having a banana thrown at him on the pitch. “It’s something that hurts,” he says, “because all you’re trying to do is play football and the one thing you don’t want is the colour of your skin being brought into the sport that you love.”
He explains that he lost the love of football for a while after being racially abused, especially because he felt unsupported by his peers and the system, and soon became untrusting of white coaches and referees for not being looked after properly following attacks. That’s why he wants clubs, sports orgs and governing bodies to feel better equipped to respond proactively to racist incidents in a safe way, by taking courses like Tackling Racism in Sport. On the course, Nana reminds us with the utmost seriousness that it racial abuse is against the law, and that clubs can not only take it to the ref on the pitch and as high up at the club as they can, they can also log it with their nation’s football association and even go to police. It’s time to take a proper stand against these incidents.
Progress with some way to go
In 1982, when Cyrille Regis was selected to play for England, he was sent a bullet in the post by a racist fan. Fast forward to 2008, following his successful appointment as manager of Chelsea, Avram Grant was sent dozens of antisemitic emails and letters. Despite many of England’s young black players becoming the stars at Euro 2020, the racist social media onslaught directed at Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho following the team’s loss suggests we have quite some way to go in tackling racism at a fan level. Even as recently as September, FIFA and UEFA have found themselves under scrutiny after Hungarian supporters hurled monkey chants at Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham during the England Budapest game in September.
But it goes far beyond the crowds, as recently black and Asian referees have also revealed the extent of abuse and prejudice that holds them back from being the best that they can be. And it’s not confined to the football pitch either – the recent outing of Yorkshire Cricket Club by Azeem Rafiq has caused a stir in all parts of the sporting world. Cover ups and carpet sweepings are no longer acceptable.
Practices like taking the knee before football matches, which became commonplace in 2020, following George Floyd’s murder, goes some way to remind everyone of the need for solidarity and respect. At a media level, more and more people are coming forward to share their stories in exposes by the likes of BBC, covering the experiences of football players and managers like Anita Asante, Chris Hughton and Emile Heskey, as well as other key figures in the football world, such as referee Shaakir Uddin and broadcaster Reshmin Chowdhury. Improved representation of ethnic minority players will also go a long way to make sport feel more inclusive.
So what is being done at an institutional level to support the tackling and correct reporting of racist bullying, both on and off the pitch? Disciplinary proceedings, hefty fines, game suspensions, player expulsions, playing behind closed doors and criminal prosecutions are just some of the actions being brought against racism in football now. It’s the structural racism, says Chris Grant, one of the most senior black administrators in British sport, that needs some desperate attention, to move away from the elephant in the room and deal with it properly.
Make awareness your first goal
Tackling Racism in Sport is written in partnership with Show Racism the Red Card, an organisation committed to challenging misconceptions, stereotypes and negative attitudes in sport and society by delivering educational sessions to over 50,000 people a year.
This online course launched in January 2022, is full of stories, data, videos and interactive learning opportunities. Upon successful completion and assessment, you’ll be awarded a certificate and CPD points. If you’re ready to raise awareness and take action in your club, this is the course for you.
Written by Alice Gunn