Prime minister hosting anti-discrimination summit at Downing Street today
David Cameron has pledged government support to stop football being dragged back to the “bad old days of the past” ahead of a Downing Street summit aiming to tackle racism in the English game.
The prime minister said the summit would help “crack” the issue of race discrimination which has recently re-emerged with a string of high-profile incidents at the top of the sport.
Writing in the Sun ahead of the summit, which involves players, governing bodies and anti-discrimination groups, he said: “Recently racism has come back into the spotlight, with cases involving some of the most famous players in football, one of which has led to the resignation of the England manager.
“We simply cannot brush this under the carpet. Football will crack this problem – and the government stands ready to help. I am absolutely clear: we will not let recent events drag us back to the bad old days of the past.”
The culture secretary Jeremy Hunt will also attend the summit, which comes after the government revealed plans to put £3m into the Football Association’s new National Coaching Centre, St George’s Park.
Cameron said more black and minority ethnic people were needed as top-level managers and coaches and that the new FA centre in Staffordshire would encourage them to progress in the game.
He added: “Football has an enormous influence on young people. Like every other parent, I want to be sure when my children see their heroes play they aren’t let down by foul, racist or violent behaviour.
“Footballers can be great role models who the public admire. But it can go the other way. If children see bad behaviour on the television or at the stadium they may copy and reproduce it in the playground.”
The event to promote a more inclusive sport comes amid fears that high-profile incidents are harming its image.
Those taking part in the discussions include the former players John Barnes and Graeme Le Saux. Amal Fashanu, who recently made a documentary about homosexuality in the sport, 14 years after her footballer uncle Justin hanged himself, will also attend.
Representatives from the Football Association, the Premier League, the Football League, the Professional Footballers’ Association and the League Managers Association are also due to be there.
At a charity reception last month, Cameron said many people had been “concerned by recent events”.
“My message is clear: we will not tolerate racism in Britain. It has absolutely no place in our society and where it exists, we will kick it out. Our football governing bodies, clubs and footballers themselves have a vital role to play as role models in this respect.”
From the Guardian