In a report published today, Wednesday 19 September 2012, the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee says that football authorities at all levels of the game, supporters' and players' groups need to take responsibility for pro-actively tackling all forms of discrimination, including racism, but it is the Football Association that must take the lead and set a strong example for others to follow.
The atmosphere experienced by those attending football matches has changed hugely since the 1970s and 80s when racial and other forms of abuse were common. Match attendance has become much more of a family-friendly activity and clubs continue to introduce measures to try to improve the standards of behaviour at matches. However, there remain significant problems ranging from homophobic abuse to what is often described as "laddish behaviour" on the terraces.
Transparent and consistent methods for reporting criminal behaviour including racism are still lacking, in particular at grass roots level. There is also a clear need to encourage more candidates from ethnic minorities to train as coaches and referees to ensure that clubs and boards can select from a more diverse pool of recruits from within the football pyramid.
The Committee recommends:
- It should be a priority for the FA to develop procedures for stewards to follow and regular training opportunities to ensure that all relevant staff at club grounds are capable of reacting swiftly and consistently to incidents of abuse.
- The efforts being made at league and club level to ensure successful prosecutions in cases of racial abuse are extremely welcome; however, it is important that similar efforts are applied to the grassroots game.
- All appointments should be based on merit alone irrespective of the candidates' race. The Committee says the best and most equitable way to introduce greater diversity among football managers and on boards is to encourage transparency and consistency of recruitment processes across all clubs and football authorities
- Candidates from ethnic minorities to train as coaches and referees, to ensure that clubs and boards can select from a more diverse pool of recruits
Comment from the Chair
John Whittingdale MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
"Much has been done to improve the atmosphere and behaviour at football matches and it has become a much more family-friendly activity. However, recent incidents of racist abuse in the UK, both on and off the pitch, have highlighted the fact that there remain significant problems. We heard evidence that social media has become a tool for the spread of racist and abusive content but it is also a potential means of combating the ignorance and prejudice that lie behind such behaviour. We believe that the football authorities should be using this developing forum for communication and debate, to spread positive messages about equality and diversity and also to speak out strongly against instances of racist abuse when they occur. More needs to be done to increase the diversity of the pool of candidates for coaches and referees, to embed the values of equality and diversity at all levels of the game.
While the general level of progress in combating racism and racist abuse in the UK is positive and should be applauded, there is much more that can and must be done, and we believe it is for the FA to take the lead and set the example for everyone, from football authorities at all levels to the grassroots groups, to follow."