Racism… Again

10 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   October 24, 2012  |     12

We live in tumultuous times. It has frequently felt over the last few days, weeks and months as if the edifices of twentieth century Britain are starting to be dismantled, and football is not free from the times being a-changing. When the independent panel released its findings into the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, it felt like a watershed moment. Not particularly because the most substantive part of the findings were anything new – far from it: the families campaigning for truth and justice had been shouting what has now become common knowledge from their rooftops for more than two decades – but because it laid bare the inner workings of an actual, real life conspiracy, a systematic smearing of the names of the dead for the sole reason of covering up the shortcomings of those charged with the responsibility of maintaining public safety on that horrible, horrible day twenty-three years ago. The truth can hurt, but it has been necessary to go through this process as the first stage in achieving justice for those who died that day.

If Hillsborough is a boil on the face of English football that needs to be lanced, though, we are still at the diagnosis stage with the other headline-grabber of the last few weeks and months: racism. The last year or so has been an uncomfortable time for those amongst us who value this game as a sport. Many of us believed – or wanted to believe so much that we allowed ourselves a three wise monkeys policy on the matter – that this was a problem that we had under control, but we were wrong. The can of worms opened by Luis Suarez and John Terry a little over a year ago proved be fuller than we would have expected it to be, and the aftershocks of the events of last season have carried over long into this season, with little sign of any respite in sight. An easy problem to draw broad brushstrokes over yet fiendishly difficult to get to the bottom of, English footballs racism crisis has proved to be a gift that keeps on giving, and while it continues to feel uncomfortable, it remains a conversation that we need to have with ourselves and each other.

The easy, route one option to take is to blame the players concerned for their idiocy and those supporters so partisan that they allow said players to develop a persecution complex over their own behaviour for the same. This is not without merit (although it does now carry the feeling of flogging a dead horse to keep repeating these mantras) , but it doesn’t get to what is now becoming apparent to be the root cause of the problem: the continued bungling of the authorities in terms of dealing conclusively with the matter at hand. How did no-one at the FA stop to consider how banning John Terry for half of the amount that of time that they banned Luis Suarez for would be perceived in the outside world? Did they really think that the explanation of Terry only having made his comment once rather than repeatedly as a justification for this would wash with anybody? We noted in our recent podcast that the FA deserved some praise for for the decisive tone of their verdict over John Terry, but to get this sort of thing right once isn’t enough. Whatever plaudits they earned from this have swiftly evaporated with the subsequent sanction that they applied, and deservedly so.

If one was to seek to write a footballing equivalent to The Thick Of It, the events of the last few weeks would have provided enough material for an entire series. We’ve had players refusing to wear anti-racism t-shirts in protest at the leniency of the John Terry ban. We’ve seen Terry retire from international football the night before the FAs verdict on his behaviour was confirmed and then told to wear an anti-racism armband by UEFA, as if that could possibly mean or make any difference to anybody, anywhere. We’ve seen the Serbian FA apparently seeking to blame the behaviour of a crowd on their watch on a player that had been racially abused by those self same people. We’ve seen the Premier League, for all the power that they hold within English football, almost silent on the events of the last few weeks and months.

We have, in short, seen absolute, bungling incompetence at every turn by those whose first responsibility should be to act decisively in order to keep this shit out of our game. It’s difficult to believe that the FA, UEFA or whoever are themselves institutionally racist (though some would argue that even this point is moot), but it’s not difficult to reach the conclusion that this constant application of ill-fitting sticking plasters to the matter is little more than a series of ongoing acts of amelioration by bodies that haven’t thought very far beyond wishing that the events of the last twelve months or so would just go away. They won’t, and a clear line in the sand needs to be drawn on the issue. Whether this can be managed or not is not a question that can be answered at present. We might, however, posit that that the FAs verdict on John Terry and its subsequent sanction brought against him demonstrates a concept which borders upon the abstract: that there is no such thing as “the Football Association” – merely a lot of rooms with committees in them which are doomed to spend eternity contradicting each other. With this in mind, my final words on racism and football run roughly as follows:

  1. Racism is A Bad Thing, but repeating this over and over again remains worthwhile.
  2. The FA, UEFA, the Premier League, the PFA and clubs themselves have created a monster that they are now unable to rein in. They all need to rip up their books and start again, with a fundamental aim of zero tolerance and no room for either interpretation or misinterpretation from anybody on the subject.
  3. Whilst it is unfortunate that Kick It Out were the target of protest last weekend, that black players took it upon themselves to make this protest is both admirable and a reflection of the inertia of the above bodies.
  4. This in itself might set light bulbs flickering in the various committees – how many of those handing out judgements, and specifically punishments, were white, and therefore have no first hand experience of racist abuse and the hurt that it must bring?
  5. Not all supporters of any particular club are “racists”, but there are too many football supporters who don’t call out their own players when they behave dreadfully in many different ways. Anybody doing so is not “disloyal” to their clubs.
  6. Racism is a societal problem rather than specifically footballs problem, and for all the bad publicity the Kick Racism Out Of Football campaign has received over the last week, football has taken the lead in society in at least getting an anti-racism message into society.

The biggest crises can get turned into opportunities with a little lateral thinking and bravery. Perhaps, though, when we look at those charged with the running of our game, we’re asking for the impossible in wishing that this will be the case.

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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • October 25, 2012 at 8:57 pm


    Your point 4 is so ignorant it beggars belief it appeared on this site. I am white. I have been ‘racially’ (the abuse more to do with my nationality) abused. In London. By black people.

  • October 25, 2012 at 9:17 pm


    So you can only suffer racist abuse if your black then? all black people should be managers?? all black people should be coaches??? all black people aint racist???? black players union IS racist!!! the MOBO awards are racist!!!! and everything you black people want to have that is just for YOUR type is racist too!!!!! i suppose it’s John Terry’s fault every time a black person commits a crime?? or are the police racist for arresting them???? heard this nonsense all my life but for some reason every other race has to put up with it!?

  • October 25, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    John McCauley

    “They all need to rip up their books and start again, with a fundamental aim of zero tolerance and no room for either interpretation or misinterpretation from anybody on the subject.”
    So I presume Ferdinand’s twitter endorsement of the “Choc Ice” racist taunt towards Ashley Cole comes under this category? Oh that’s right it can’t be racist because it’s a black man towards another black man. Try using the American equivalent of “An uncle Tom” in the US and see what type of reaction you get.

  • October 25, 2012 at 10:33 pm


    James, I vaguely see the kind of point you are (unsuccessfully) trying to make, but the way you have made it, and your reference to John Terry leads me to believe you are an aggrieved Chelsea fan completely blinkered to what is going on (I might be wrong). The tone of your post is wrong. Very wrong.

  • October 25, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    Steve P

    Surely the real underlying issue is the hypocrisy and double standards that are consistently applied by all those that comment, because in truth they all have an agenda.

    The media have as always created and fueled this fire to make money.

    Abuse is abuse, to start to discriminate based on minorites may be the current vogue, but it is inherently prejudiced against the majority.

    Anyone with a brain cell knows the FA were forced into making the decision they did. On the one side we had the blood thirsty crew who had been making open threats over the consequences of not making an example of Terry because he is without doubt a loathsome person. He had successfully manipulated the judicial system. There is no doubt if the FA had handed down the same punishment the drug cheat Ferdinand got, he would have appealed and created a scenario that would have damaged football in a way that is beyond comprehension.

    What bothers me is how Rio Ferdinand has become the central victim in this situation and vocal point. How his comment at Cole was brushed away. If a white person had made that comment, the outcome would have been very different.

    How is is acceptable to everyone that the B word can be swapped with Welsh and then directed at Robbie Savage?

    How is it acceptable that every week a reasonable percentage of players and fans direct language at the Officials that is clearly breaking the law?

    Since when did blackmail become an acceptable way for people of any background to behave?

    I have long advocated that racism will only ever disappear when there are no factions in society for people to become moral and vocal leaders for.

    My agenda is that I would like to see Terry, both Ferdinands, The FA and Carlise etc exposed for the dishonest frauds they all are.

  • October 26, 2012 at 9:20 am



    Brilliant! – “You Black People”.
    Where do you stand on “You Gay People” in football?

  • October 26, 2012 at 9:24 am


    Abusing someone because of their nationality is not the same as abusing someone because of their skin colour!!!

  • October 27, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Steve P

    Abuse is Abuse Karl, why is it deemed as bad when the word is Paki, or if the B world has been replaced by Indian, Muslim etc, but not Welsh, Irish, French, German etc? It is the same because you are labeling a person.

    What you seem to be saying is only a white person can make a racist comment. And even then its only racist if against a different colored skin. That may be the case to make something news worthy and fuel the media need for profit, but that does not make it true.

    I cannot accept that Rio Ferdinand is not a racist, his comments regarding what he feels should have happenned to John Terry are clearly prejudiced and hence unacceptable.

  • October 27, 2012 at 3:49 pm


    Karl – honestly can you explain the difference? By the way I would like to know people’s opinion. Do you cinsider the word Negro racist?

  • October 30, 2012 at 12:36 pm


    Steve P, maliniok, – It is a interesting issue. I think if you replaced the word Black with white and used that in a derogatory manner, it is racist. for example an asian/black etc… person calling someone a white *^&*&^*& is equally as racist. It is one person abusing someone else based on their skin colour. I have met people of all skin colour who are racist for example in India a white person will face racism, it is the the responsibility of the majority to make sure the minority isn’t oppressed.

    Nationalism and patriotism, and being abused on the basis of your country of origin or for that matter religion are equally abhorrent. but and this is my point (perhaps it is just semantics) racism is based on skin colour. It doesn’t help the issue to confuse them and hide behind them as a excuse.

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