Racism in European Football: Will New Rules Help?

The last weeks of October 2012 saw racism rear its ugly head again, in the European Leagues, particularly in England, affecting both the Premier League clubs and players, as well as the national one too. Many have wondered whether the major football bodies UEFA and FIFA will act as some have been trying to do like the Football Association (FA) in England.

To give us a perspective into the racism issue, ArsenalNews chronicles various incidences of racism that have taken place in different countries:

Racism is a major issue in our world nowadays, even the beautiful game is filled with it. Players, officials and fans are all targeted, some may be targeted because of them being on the opposing team and some individuals are even targeted by their own fans. Below are some football related racist incidents and acts that happened all around Europe.

In February 2011, Roberto Carlos signed a contract with Russian Premier League club Anzhi Makhachkala. The following month during a game away against Zenit, a banana was held near Carlos by one of the fans as the footballer was taking part in a flag-raising ceremony.

In November 2008, Middlesbrough’s Egyptian forward Mido was subjected to Islamophobic chanting from a small number of Newcastle United fans.

In March 2012, a 29 year old Arsenal fan was arrested after being caught racially abusing Newcastle United player Cheik Tiote by SkySports cameras.

The most talked about incident in the 2011/2012 season was when England captain John Terry was caught on tape allegedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. Few days ago Queens Park Rangers faced Chelsea, Ferdinand refused to shake hands with Terry before the start of the match.

While it may have affected the various national leagues, it seems that international games are not immune to these incidents with the most recent one in Serbia when the Under-21 England team played the Serbian Under-21 on October 16.

Here is a video uploaded by youtube user  of the incident that ensued in Serbia in the match between the Under-21 England and Serbian national teams on 16 October 2012:


Football Philosophy tells us in the blog-post Racism in the Balkans: A Problem That Will Just Not Go Away:

The disturbing scenes in Serbia this week have once again drawn attention to the issue of racism in football, particularly in this part of the world, where an unhealthy political culture of hard-line nationalism and ethnic prejudice in the region over the past decades has bred violence and bigotry on the terraces.

There is little doubt that the problem of racism, accentuated by periods of aggressive ethnic nationalism in the Balkans, remains a significant problem for football. This is a problem that UEFA and the football authorities appear unwilling to address, in the hope that it will fade out of public consciousness. Their actions to this point in dealing with Tuesday’s despicable incidents have only added weight to this claim.

Lester Hollaway in his blog-post What Rio can learn from non-League football reflects on the English footballer's refusal to wear a Kick It Out t-shirt, a campaign driven by an awareness programme under the same name:

Football has always been a game built on the grassroots and, on a day when a handful of highly-paid Premiership players headed by Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand postured over racism, it was refreshing to witness non-league Sutton United remind us what is good about the game.

First, they were picking on the wrong target. Any criticism about light punishments for racism – for example in the cases of John Terry or Luis Suarez – must go first and foremost to the football authorities and then to Premiership clubs themselves. Kick It Out are merely a pressure group without power, and one that has consistently been calling for tougher penalties for many a year.

The PFA (Professional Footballers Association) in the UK on 24 October gave a 6-point proposal to curb the issue including the so-called Rooney Rule as highlighted by FootyMatters:

The PFA’s plan calls for:

  • 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 American football’s National Football League in 2003 – to make sure qualified ethnic minority 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),
  • not losing sight of other equality issues such as gender, sexual orientation, disability, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and Asians in football.

Ademir to Zizinho wrote a lenghty post about Why English football doesn't need a “Rooney Rule”:

The idea of introducing a “Rooney rule” might seem a panacea to cure football of its current ills. Yet in reality it would simply paper over the fundamental flaws which beset the entire process of appointing managers. England does not just lack a reasonable number of black managers within the football league, it lacks a sensible method of unearthing managers of talent, regardless of their ethnicity.

Rather than a requirement to interview members of ethnic minorities, a far more inclusive amendment would be to interview prospective managers of any race who had not previously held a professional position. That would not only open up the field to members of all ethnicities, it would end the “old boys’ network” that sees failing managers bounce around from club to club based on a long past playing career. Sadly in their attempt to take control of the media agenda, the PFA have instead latched on to another half-baked idea that will benefit nobody.

It's truly about time that the major governing bodies in the game of football took decisive action against this act that smears the beautiful game of football. It has no place in sport in this time and era as the game is truly global as represented by the players playing in most leagues in Europe and other successful leagues.

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