Racism in football has long been making the headlines. The most recent case is Nicolas Anelka a West Brom player who made the controversial quenelle gesture after scoring a goal against West Ham. The quenelle gesture is an anti semetic sign and it is said Anelka was supporting Dieudonné M’bala M’bala an anti Zionist French comedian who has recently been in the media for his comments. Anelka has been banned by the Football Association. Zoopla, a sponsor of West Brom has now withdrawn its support. Racism has long been inherent in football, but there are lessons we should learn.
At the beginning of the twentieth century Walter Tull was the first black man to play for Tottenham Hotspur. It is believed that his glittering career was cut short by racism; he was dropped from the first team then sold to Northampton Town.
In 1914 Tull enlisted in the Footballers Battalion (Middlesex Regiment). He was promoted three times after leading a raid across enemy lines. He was then recommended for a Military Cross for outstanding bravery and leadership, however, he never received this. His family were informed that he had been recommended by two fellow officers who broke the rules to do so. According to the manual of Military Law infantry officers had to be of pure European descent. Tull was killed in action in the Somme in 1918. In 1999 Northampton Town unveiled a memorial in his honour. Hopes are growing that finally he will be recognised for the sacrifice he made. A play about his life is being unveiled at a theatre in Bolton.
In December 2012 Liverpool’s Suarez was given an eight match ban and a £40,000 fine after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United’s Evra. In July ex-England captain John Terry was in a high profile racism case, but he was cleared of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. There is a long way to go to reduce racism in football. Many management and boardroom positions are all white and all male, there is no diversity. There is evidence to show that homophobia is a bigger problem than discrimination.
Racial discrimination is damaging to all organisations, not just the football industry. It occurs when a person is treated less favourably because of their race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin. The Equality Act makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against other employees because of these characteristics.
ACAS describes four areas of discrimination:
- direct discrimination: treating someone less favourably because of their actual or perceived race, or because of the race of someone with whom they associate
- indirect discrimination: can occur where there is a policy, practice or procedure which applies to all workers, but particularly disadvantages people of a particular race. An example could be a requirement for all job applicants to have GCSE Maths and English: people educated in countries which don’t have GCSEs would be discriminated against if equivalent qualifications were not accepted.
- harassment: when unwanted conduct related to race has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual
- victimisation: unfair treatment of an employee who has made or supported a complaint about racial discrimination.