On Saturday the 20 of October 2012 British football found itself in the middle of a political bout between the Kick it Out organization and a handful of Premier League players including The Ferdinand’s, Jason Roberts and Kenwyne Jones.
The listed players decided to opt out of wearing a black T-shirt in support of Kick it Out’s awareness campaign. Following the “rebellion” some of those involved explained their motivation for such actions. Jason Roberts however was the most revealing; he was quoted in the Daily Mail expressing his distain at the current situation.
‘The last generation might have suffered from monkey chants, but we have to move it forward from just being happy that we no longer get that. Yes, it was progress. But we can’t decide that it is good enough, and we must keep moving’ (The Mail Online, 2012)
…a six-point action plan…
Soon after these events on the 24 of October, Gordon Taylor the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) announced a six-point action plan to dealing with racism in the future to the press. This plan includes:
Speeding up the process of dealing with reported racist abuse with close monitoring of any incidents.
Consideration of stiffer penalties for racist abuse and to include an equality awareness programme for culprits and clubs involved.
An English form of the ‘Rooney rule’ – introduced by the NFL in America in 2003 – to make sure qualified black coaches are on interview lists for job vacancies.
The proportion of black coaches and managers to be monitored and any inequality or progress highlighted.
Racial abuse to be considered gross misconduct in player and coach contracts (and therefore potentially a sackable offence).
To not to lose sight of other equality issues such as gender, sexual orientation, disability, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Asians in football.
(PA Sports, 2012)
In the wake of recent events this announcement will come as good news to players and fans alike, however as with anything there are pro’s and con’s. First lets discuss the pros.
New hardline approach
In the last year we’ve seen two incidents, which have both led to some form of punishment. John Terry was fined £220,000 by the F.A and banned for four games after found guilty of racist language towards QPR’s Anton Ferdinand. Similarly Luis Suarez was given an eight match ban and a £40,000 fine for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.
It’s been argued that the punishments handed out to those guilty of committing racial abuse have been rather lenient. This new action plan is moving towards a system of stricter punishments to those who racially discriminate fellow players in the future. Particularly in regards to The PFAs plans to sack players found guilty of racism in the future under Gross misconduct laws. Tough but fair, and if fans of the game want to see such ugly scenes eradicated from the game then these are the necessary measures
I’m not confessing my love for Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, Gordon Taylor is now proposing we adopt the “Rooney rule” and I myself cannot wait! If implemented the Rooney rule shall require clubs to ensure qualified ethnic minority coaches are on the list of applicants for job vacancies. I am a huge fan of this rule as coaches from ethnic minorities shall now be given the opportunity to manage on merit against their peers.
It’s also great to hear that there are plans to monitor the proportion of ethnic coaches. It suggests that those involved are willing to step back and figure out why there is a lack of ethnic minority coaches and managers within football.
Whilst being an avid supporter of any campaign aiming to eradicate discrimination in the sport I love, I can’t help but see flaws in the plan as outlined by Gordon Taylor.
Who Really Pays The Price?
The first flaw I see is the potential loss of quality players. Lets say Suirez was found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra under the suggested plan. He’d be dismissed from Liverpool and forced to find a new club, and for good reason. However after such investment and efforts in bringing players like Suirez to their respective club, it seems to me that the clubs themselves could be losing more than the perpetrator themselves. Especially if the player is still allowed to look for an alternative club.
Is this all a dream?
The final glaring drawback to this plan is its creation. Until the conference itself there has been no legitimate evidence to suggest this change was coming. The F.A are still yet to receive a proposal on the suggested plan.
Consequently I find it rather difficult not to look at this plan and see it as anything more than a knee jerk reaction from Gordon Taylor; attempting to appease both those involved in the protest and those who support the movement itself. However as always I shall look to the future with hope and look forward to seeing the proposal itself.