MPs ask FA to lead fight against racism in football

The Football Association (FA) must take a leading role in fighting all forms of discrimination including racism in football, MPs have said.

In a new report, the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee said the FA “must take the lead and set a strong example for others to follow.”

The Committee also urged all football authorities at all levels of the game, supporters' and players' groups to take responsibility for pro-actively tackling all forms of discrimination.

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, the Committee said.

The Committee said 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.

While recognising the efforts being made at league and club level to ensure successful prosecutions in cases of racial abuse, the Committee said similar efforts must be applied to the grassroots game.

When it comes to appointments, the Committee said they should all be based on merit alone irrespective of the candidates' race. 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, the Committee said.

The Committee further recommended that candidates from ethnic minorities should train as coaches and referees, to ensure that clubs and boards can select from a more diverse pool of recruits.

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.”

Mr. Whittingdale said the Committee heard evidence that social media has become a tool for the spread of racist and abusive content.

Social media, Mr. Whittingdale said, “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.”

Mr. Whittingdale called for more efforts “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.”

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