Lord Herman Ouseley – ‘An analysis of discrimination and exclusion in football in England’
Lord Herman Ouseley, Chair and founder of Kick It Out, wrote an analysis of discrimination and exclusion in football in England which featured in the programme for Kick It Out’s 20 year anniversary dinner on Tuesday 20 May 2014.
Lord Ouseley focuses on the need for leadership and responsibility from the key decision-makers in football, and looks at the continued presence of discrimination in the game. You can read the analysis in full below.
Still Kicking It Out – The Next Phase – Football’s Leadership Challenge: An analysis of discrimination and exclusion in football in England
Power + Prejudice = Discrimination
Institutional discrimination is an integral part of the policies and practices of most organisations in the UK. It is underpinned by personal prejudices and accepted dominant cultures. Decision makers have the power, either to protect the status quo and its comfort zone, or to take on the challenges posed in creating discrimination-free environments.
Put simply, this is an issue of leadership and responsibility. In a straightforward way, it is for those people with power and influence to provide the moral, personal and professional leadership in all actions to create the trust and confidence for everyone, whatever their background or circumstances, to believe that they will be treated fairly at all times and respectfully encouraged to gain access to opportunities open to all. The fundamental question to be answered is ‘will they?’.
Football has its uniqueness, with its quaint traditions and structures, but, in the context of equality and diversity, it is no different to other bodies in that no matter how much it claims to have equal opportunity intentions and credentials, the outcomes rarely match expectations.
In recent times, the football hierarchy has been seen to be forensically addressing the issues of institutional discrimination. In effect and in reality, the top of the football pyramid is still a bastion of white male domination and finds difficulty in having to face up to the challenge of change which, if tackled seriously, would mean giving up some space to allow the participation of women, black, Asian and disabled people, as equals within its decision-making structures and as employees at all levels. Some in leadership positions are trying to move policies and practices forward positively but progress, while notable and helpful, remains painfully slow.
Action to achieve equality and diversity can be pursued either superficially or with real zest and enthusiasm. The reality is that it will be a long road to achieve equality outcomes, not because anyone deliberately wants exclusion to persist. The reality, however, is that no-one is ever inclined to give up power and facing up to culture change can be painful. Most professional football clubs, in spite of their avowed commitments to equality, have only a passive interest in equality and diversity outcomes but are content with the simple objective to avoid being seen to do anything that is discriminatory.
However, more often than not, there is little or no interest whatsoever in the board rooms or the senior management teams for any high profile equality and diversity activity, and most clubs and some of the overarching bodies would be much more comfortable for it to go away as an issue. In fact, many leaders in football hold the view that there is no longer a race or discrimination problem and it is time for Kick It Out to pack its bags and move on.
Wearing the t-shirts, pinning on the badges and waving the banners once a year during the weeks of action is regarded as sufficient demonstration of their commitment to equality and diversity. Going beyond that is regarded as unnecessary and unjustified and has become a no-go area of activity for many.
Different Realities: 1993-2014
For some people, 2014 is a good place to be for football in England. It was never like that in 1993, when the campaign to ‘KICK RACISM OUT OF FOOTBALL’ was initiated.
For most black people then, going to watch professional football in England was an indulgence in masochism. There was outrageous racist abuse, harassment and violence for anyone not white, especially if they showed any opposition to the racists and their abusive conduct. The game turned a blind eye to what was going on.
Too often there was blatant tolerance shown to the nastiness infecting the game. Black players’ families and friends were reluctant to go and endure the abuse and hostility when attending games and there was no point in complaining. In fact there was no-one interested in hearing your complaint and no scope to getting anything done about it.
Most people, from top to bottom of the organisations, especially among professional clubs at that time, including the Police and stewards, had their eyes closed to racism, inequality, exclusion and discrimination. Many of football’s leaders in 1993 appeared to be largely incompetent, ignorant and irresponsible when it came to the issue of racism, sexism, antisemitism, homophobia and Islamaphobia in football.
The situation was as bad, and sometimes worse, at grassroots level, where local clubs with black, Asian and Jewish players facing racial abuse felt powerless to get redress and justice against such atrocities. Obviously it was even worse for all those who came before. Arthur Wharton and Walter Tull a century or more ago faced a different form of apartheid as did the pioneers of the 1950s and 60s including the likes of Albert Johanneson and Clyde Best.
Awareness Raising Realities
Fortunately, Gordon Taylor of the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), David Dein at the newly formed Premier League, Richard Faulkner at the Football Trust and David Davies at The Football Association (FA) were enlightened in their leadership and sought to involve their organisations to support the initiative to ‘Kick Racism Out of Football’.
Over the ensuing 20 years, the campaign adopted the name Kick It Out, eventually secured support from some of the key people in the game, and progressively achieved a gradual increase in the challenges to persuade those people running football to have zero tolerance with any form of abusive and discriminatory behaviour. Many self-help local organisations joined the challenge, not least Show Racism the Red Card and other organisations to increase Asian people’s participation in the game.
Some of the achievements to date, through the collaborative and partnership work involving Kick It Out can be summarised as:
– raising awareness of the issues
– getting reactions and positive responses from fans groups, clubs, leagues and the regulators
– days, weeks of action (one of demonstrations of clubs’ commitments to anti-racism)
– challenging unacceptable behaviours
– improving complaints processes, effective enforcement of regulations, and setting the standards for conduct compliance in all discrimination cases
– developing partnership work with other organisations specialising in tackling racism, sexism, antisemitism, homophobia, Islamaphobia and in meeting the needs of disabled people in football
– education programmes for employees, players, management, administrators and officials about the nature of prejudice and its effects on behaviour and decision-making
– education projects for schools and youth clubs about issues of racism, prejudice, and discrimination and involving clubs and players
– providing advice on best practices to achieve equality and diversity in all aspects of football and overseeing the Equality Standard for clubs to achieve excellence through best policies and practices
– some opening up of more opportunities in football to make accessible to people from all backgrounds
– improved links with diverse communities and increasing the fan base from among the black and Asian communities
– persuading leaders in football to take pro-active positive action direct on discriminatory behaviour
– encouraging black and minority ethnic (BME) players to take direct action in challenging unacceptable behaviour within their clubs, in the changing rooms, training grounds, the board rooms and to open up opportunities across all aspects of the game, especially for ex-players.
Football has been facing up to the challenge and has its own “92 point plan” to tackle discrimination due to be reported on back to government shortly (May 2014), following an intervention made by the Prime Minister two years ago. But the issues persist with much more still to be done.
Evidence of such persistence from Kick It Out’s data for complaints so far in the 2013/14 season show:
– 281 overall number of complaints covering professional game, semi-professional game, grassroots football, and social media (67% racism, 20% antisemitism, 7% sexual orientation, 1.5% disability, 1% gender, 0.5% faith and 3% other)
– 79 in-stadia complaints (the increase in reported in-stadia incidents comparing to last season is at this point 443%)
– 57 grassroots complaints
– 140 social media incidents
– 5 professional player complaints.
Kick It Out’s data from a recent players’ consultation, which was completed by 200 current professional footballers (32% black and minority ethnic) from across the Premier League (15%) and Football League (85%), revealed:
– 57% of players have witnessed, and 24% have been subjected to, racist abuse in football stadiums. 7% of players have been subjected to, and 20% have witnessed, racist abuse on the training ground or in the dressing room
– 39% of players have witnessed, and 3% have been subjected to, homophobic abuse in football stadiums. 7% of players have been subjected to, and 26% have witnessed, homophobic abuse on the training ground or in the dressing room
– 92% of players thought fan on player discrimination was common or extremely common. 80% felt fan on fan was common or extremely common. 50% thought player on player discrimination was extremely rare or rare. 39% thought player on player discrimination was common or extremely common
– 69% of players felt that, due to their profession, they are more exposed to abuse, with 91% agreeing that social media has led to an increase in them receiving discriminatory abuse. They felt these platforms must be policed and monitored more effectively
– 65% of players are aware of reporting procedures and are comfortable informing either the Premier League or Football League, the PFA, their club, agent and Kick It Out. They feel The FA and Police should have quicker and more consistent responses with harsher penalties for both fans and players. They also believe that there should be better education for fans who are found guilty.
The Ultimate Challenge
In its 21st year, Kick It Out, working with everyone in the game, retains the overarching aspiration for people from all backgrounds to be able to play and watch football free from the fear of abuse, harassment and discrimination, and to have fair and equal access to the opportunities available in every aspect of the game.
The next phase of action will prioritise:
– continued zero tolerance with all aspects of discrimination
– educating the next generation of fans and players to be much more open-minded and fully aware of the effects of prejudice and discrimination, rejecting all forms of abusive and unequal treatment
– penetrating the board rooms and hierarchies of the football establishments to achieve diversity, inclusion and the opening up of opportunities to people of all backgrounds
– encouraging and supporting BME players and others to take direct action in raising their grievances and complaints, and to apply their own assertiveness to get equality, fair treatment and justice.
Inevitably, sustainable transformation can only be achieved if those people with the power, influence and resources – who can therefore make it happen – willingly do so. The alternative is for them to be made to do so forcefully. That alternative is neither a practical nor desirable option and would only be viable through legislation or conflict. But, there has never been any gain without pain in the struggle against racism, discrimination and exclusion.
Now is the time for the leaders of football to stand up and be counted on this issue, to exercise personal, professional and corporate responsibilities by themselves showing the way forward in setting and self-enforcing equality standards and, in due course, make Kick It Out history! Now there’s a challenge!
Lord Herman Ouseley