Enough is enough: kicking racism out of football

Footballer Danny Rose calls out racism in the game

By Luchia Robinson

 

Danny Rose playing for England in the World Cup 2018 Credit: Wikicommons

Tottenham defender Danny Dose says he “can’t wait to see the back of football” after monkey chants were directed at him during the England and Montenegro Euro 2020 qualifier, in Podgorica, in March.

This is not the first time Rose has been subjected to racist abuse, (notably whilst playing in Serbia, in the England Under-21 team), and he doubts Montenegro will receive a significant punishment from governing body UEFA, when they face disciplinary action on 16th May.

“How I programme myself is that I think I’ve got five or six more years left in football, and I just can’t wait to see the back of it,” said Rose.

“Seeing how things are done in the game at the minute, you just have to get on with it.”

In a well timed move, Middlesex University held a debate discussing racism in football on Monday 25th March– the night of the Montenegro match.

Speakers highlighted the process footballers go through proving they have been racially abused, and the conflicts that often surround this, including the underlying expectation for players to put up, shut up, and carry on, for the sake of their careers.

Football equality and inclusion organisation, Kick it Out reports that in 2017/18 there were 214 incidents of discrimination in the professional game, 201 on social media and 105 in grassroots football.

Chris Paouros, Co-Chair of Proud Lilywhites (the official LGBT+ Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Association) and Pride in Football (the alliance of LGBT+ fan groups in the UK) believes a “whole game approach– from grassroots, to the Premier League; top down and bottom up” is needed to address the issue.

At present, the minimum punishment a club can receive for racist abuse is a partial stadium closure. A match played behind closed doors and a fine of 50,000 euros (£42,000) is the result of a second offence.

Danny Rose says he had the support of England coach, Gareth Southgate, if he wanted to walk off the pitch, and Tottenham manager, Mauricio Pochettino is reported in The Guardian as saying: “If I feel the abuse and I hear it, then out– stop.”

“There is nothing more important than to stop that. You can win or you can lose a game but we cannot be hypocrites with this.

“There is nothing more important in this life than to protect the values and principles. When this type of situation happens, football is not important. If that happens and I am conscious about it, I am the first to say: ‘Stop, we are not going to play. Come on inside.’”

Whether or not footballers decide to stop play; post their upset on social media, or are supported off the pitch by individual managers– expectations for change from senior levels appears to be low.

“When countries only get fined what I probably spend on a night out in London, then what do you expect?” said Rose.

What adequate punishment should governing bodies enforce?

Taiwo Oniti, Middlesex Sports Development officer, said: “At some point there’s going to need to be some action where you take away points from teams– make those at the top feel accountable, because the only way they are going to feel it, is if it stops a few zeros on the end of a pay packet.”

“That’s when they’ll really start to see the issue as a big problem, and start to combat it. Until you start hurting the people at the top, I can’t imagine something’s going to happen collectively to bring about a collective change.”

The panel leads the discussion on racism in football. (From left to right: Dr Akile Ahmet, Chris Paouros, Darren Johnson, Rakim Richards, Troy Townsend, Taiwo Oniti.)    Credit: Luchia Robinson

Troy Townsend, Mentoring and Project Leadership Manager for Kick It Out, believes a culture of racist attitudes in football can be shifted if footballing bodies listen to how abuse received on the terraces affects the well being of the players, and take prompt action.

Also if the public holds these governing authorities to account; and if clubs accurately reflect the communities they are grounded in, locally and at board level.

“Football just needs to get tough. It needs to stop accepting the fact that these fans are doing it. Hold the fans accountable, hold the clubs that allow the fans into their stadium accountable, and let’s start to advocate change,” said Townsend.

“Players are now recognising the power of their own voice. Their voice normally gets sanitised.

“Players have realised that ‘hold on, the power is not with the game and the authorities anymore, if we don’t play, there’s nothing to watch.’”

“The words of Raheem Sterling have empowered players, full-stop. The words of Lukaku have empowered players.”

Townsend added: “We’re on the real cusp of something where players are going to take ownership– they are not going to accept the situations that are continuing to happen.

“Whilst I disagree with the forming of a ‘black group’ as such, I can understand why black players would group together and say ‘you know what, the game has not looked after us– we’ll look after ourselves.’

“One message from a Pogba, a Lukaku, it doesn’t matter who it is, would send reverberations around the game.”