By Jack Warrick
In our modern sporting world, racism shouldn’t be making front or back page news. “It’s 2017,” they say. Yet, even in British sport we are seeing more and more cases of so called ‘casual racism,’ and football is at the forefront.
This week, the FA issued an apology to England’s Eniola Aluko, saying they had breached their duty of care for their players after the FA finally concluded that she and another England player, Drew Spence, were subjected to discriminatory remarks on the grounds of race.
Aluko has been capped 104 times for England and spoke out saying the FA had not paid her compensation fee of £80,000 in full. Shambolic, considering she was subjected to humiliation due to the FA’s treatment of her. Online trolls even referenced her decline as a reason for having been dropped.
It was seemingly the final nail in the coffin for former manager Mark Sampson, who lost his job back in September “after clear evidence of inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour by a coach.” A dreadful way to end what was regarded by many to be a successful stint as England manager.
It comes after Sampson led England to a solid third-place finish at the 2015 World Cup and the semi-finals of the Euros in 2017, but this success barely papered over the cracks of discrimination and drama behind the scenes.
What Sampson did was unforgivable and the FA’s statement has also raised questions on the association’s attitudes towards racism. FA chairman Greg Clarke previously commented on the media’s “fluff on institutional racism,” later redacting the comment.
Now, goalkeeping coach Lee Kendall is also being investigated, after allegedly using a ‘Caribbean’ accent when talking to Aluko, despite the fact she is of African descent.
“I was particularly surprised at the strong negative opinion formed by Lee Kendall only a month into the tenure of Mark Sampson,” Aluko said in court. “I believed the inflammatory statements were inappropriate, unprofessional and unwarranted; and I felt as though I had been singled out for such treatment.”
The whole situation stinks of unprofessionalism and failed attempts of ‘banter’ between colleagues.
The BBC’s Dan Roan put it best:
“What began as a dispute between a player and her national coach has become a scandal that threatens to engulf the entire FA and put some of the most powerful figures in the game under serious pressure.”
The FA was accused of not having a suitable structure to deal with Aluko’s complaints, and it’s not the first time the FA has come under fire for its treatment of this sort of issue.
In 2011, Suarez was banned for eight matches after an alleged derogatory comment aimed towards Patrice Evra. Many argued that this was not a lengthy enough punishment.
It also goes without saying that this is not an issue exclusive to British football. Europa and Champions League nights are plagued with racist chanting – though this is often a minority group made up of ‘ultras.’ Just this morning (at the time of writing) Roma were charged with racist ‘monkey chanting’ aimed at Chelsea’s Antonio Rüdiger, a former player of Roma.
Racism in fact plagues football. In what might be the most dated football announcement ever made, Lazio announced that there would be no more racist chanting from their ultras. Chelsea themselves have caused uproar for racist chanting and violence caused by fans in Paris in February 2015, chanting “We’re racist, we’re racist, and that’s the way we like it.”
Action is poor. Measly fines are imposed on clubs, some less than the average wage of a Football League Championship player. Games are sometimes played behind closed doors, though this is a rarity.
Perhaps the FA could learn from local football associations. The Cornwall FA believes that there is under-reporting of incidents of racism and discrimination in the game. Any instance of racism that is reported, either committed by players or spectators, is taken to a tribunal where players are banned for five matches minimum. If the player is proved guilty, the ban will be substantially more.