Football needs a comprehensive anti-racism strategy

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Bukayo Saka;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Bukayo Saka</a>’s image was used to convey disappointment at England’s loss against Iceland – despite the fact that he was not on the pitch when Iceland scored.</span><span>Photograph: CameraSport/Getty</span>

The aftermath of England’s defeat in Euro 2020 highlighted a disturbing growing trend of racial abuse against black players. The focus at the time centred the blame on the easy targets who were using social media to express blatantly racist views. Before a ball has even been kicked in Euro 2024, headlines are already targeting Bukayo Saka, as discussed in Morgan Ofori’s article (Bukayo Saka’s treatment after Iceland loss exposed familiar media failings, 12 June).

While this may have been unintentional, it raises questions about the underlying message being sent. This time, we can’t blame the overt racists on the usual platforms. These images were used by mainstream media organisations. It is commendable that Ian Wright called out this behaviour.

In Spain, overt racism toward Vinícius Júnior has led to convictions and stadium bans, showcasing the consequences of such actions, albeit far too infrequently. However, the real issue lies in covert racism within the sport. The lack of representation of black managers, coaches, journalists and board members in clubs perpetuates this problem. Without black voices and advocacy across all levels of the sport, meaningful change will be difficult to achieve. As we pointed out to Manchester United recently when they announced their Old Trafford regeneration taskforce, having no representation from the global majority is poor practice. To their credit, they reached out.

Addressing racism in football, as in all areas of life, goes beyond numbers and meeting equality, diversity and inclusion targets; it requires identifying and dismantling structural and institutional racism. Developing a comprehensive anti-racism plan of action – one that is measurable, transparent and enforceable – is essential.
Kaushik Mistry
CEO, Anthony Walker Foundation

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