Sports is such big business that it is rarely out of the news. One subject that has received attention on both sides of the Atlantic is the issue of tackling racism in sport.
Football – or soccer- is the most popular sports in the world with over 4 billion fans globally. So the impact of racism is seen by huge diverse worldwide audiences.
Tackling Racism In Sport
Sport is a reflection of society in general. The fact that sporting organisations are addressing the issue of racism has to be applauded.
Attitudes towards race, gender and sexuality have changed significantly over the last fifty years. Whilst the majority of people accept diversity and inclusivity in sports and society, there will always be a small minority who do not share these views.
Those old enough to remember the harsh system of apartheid in South Africa know the influence sports can have when it comes to tackling racism.
No child is born full of hate; prejudice is learned! As the former black England international John Barnes stated, “tackling racism in society must come first.” The reality is that dealing with racism in society is the key to minimalizing racism in sport.
Tackling Racism – Football in the UK
The treatment of black English football players in Montenegro was headline news in the UK and highlighted the problems of racism in football.
Footballers in the English Premier League are amongst the highest paid sportsmen. The average weekly wage for a Premier League player is now over £50,000 – and that does not include bonuses or incentives.
The £2.6m average salary for a Premier League player is over double that of a German Bundesliga and French Ligue 1 footballer. Players in Spain’s La Liga earn an average of £1.68m, while the figure for Italy’s Serie A is £1.33m annually.
As a result the league has attracted players from all over the world. So addressing equality, diversity and tackling racism in football is more important than ever.
The ‘Kick it Out’ campaign has been heralded a success by its supporters. On the other hand detractors says its effect on tackling racism in football had not made significant changes to the sport.
Raheem Sterling – a black Englishman has emerged from the with a respect and admiration that had previously been lacking.
In April the UK Times newspaper launched a ‘Anti-Racist Manifesto’ calling for radical changes to be to the game.
However; as welcome as this initiative is, how successful it becomes remains to be seen. Whilst the initiative is likely to be accepted in a culturally diverse and liberal countries such as the UK, will other countries follow suit?
Football in Europe
UEFA has had a No to Racism policy / campaign since 2001. However there are many examples of racial abuse and racism to suggest that the problem has not been eradicated.
In Italy, when the Juventus forward Moise Kean challenged the racism of Cagliari fans after scoring a goal, his own teammate Leonardo Bonucci publically criticized his actions.
The manager in charge of the Montenegro national football team where England players were subjected to repeated racial abuse declared that he had heard no evidence of racism during the fixture. As a result the culprits were not prosecuted.
Many people involved in football have voiced their concern at the leniency of governing bodies when tackling incidents of racism such as:
- Dynamo Kiev were fined 60,000 euros (£51,779) following a Europa League game against Chelsea.
- Hungary were given a partial stadium closure and fined 23,500 euros (£20,277) for charges including racist behaviour in Euro 2020 qualifier against Hungary.
For the incidents in the match against England, Montenegro was fined 20,000 euros and ordered to play their next home match behind closed doors.
Tackling The Problem Of Racism In USA
Many of the issues above really concern tackling racial abuse as well as racism.
In America the issue of racism appears to have been addressed. The ‘Rooney Rule’ has resulted in the hiring of more black coaches and General Managers in major sports.
However, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has seen his career destroyed by his support for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign.
The Relevance of Social Media
Social media is proving to be a hindrance in the battle against racism in sport, particularly within the footballing world.
Many of the English Premier League players are household names who are recognised all over the world. They also have huge following on social media platforms such as Instagram.
Due to the ability to be able to hide behind a social media profile without revealing one’s identity, there are many challenges in holding someone accountable for racist abuse online.
As a result of online racist abuse, professional footballers in England and Wales staged a 24 hour boycott of all social media.
The bottom line still remains that solving the problem in society is needed in order to eradicate the problem in sports. Understanding what is meant by equality and diversity is something we should all be aware of.