Football is underperforming on racism

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June 9, 2020

English footballing bodies are underperforming when it comes to the fight against racism.

Townsend says the Premier League, Football League, PFA and LMA, in addition to his own organization, are underperforming with their response to racial incidents and steps must be taken to ensure football drives societal change.

“None of us are performing well if there are incidents still happening. We are very quick to challenge the incidents out in Bulgaria, incidents in Montenegro when it affects our national players. We are damning, and we want the harshest possible punishment on the associations and perpetrators. When it comes back into our own countries, we are not dealing with it in the manner we stressed it should be dealt with abroad. We are all underperforming,” he told The Football Show.

However, with Premier League football returning from a three-month suspension on June 17, Townsend has challenged those in the game to ensure the fight against racism remains top of the agenda.

“The Premier League is back next week, are we going to be discussing these conversations, or are we going to grateful that football is back on our screens and we’ve actually got something to turn the focus away. This season has seen some unbelievable situations happen around our football grounds up and down the country. We are all failing and there needs to be urgent talks when football does return to establish how football is going to step up to the mark to help society,” he added.

“[The Rooney Rule] or mandatory code, as it is called in this country, only applies to the Football League clubs, it doesn’t apply in the Premier League,” he explains. “So straight away that is not a level playing field. There is an element in the code that states that as long as there is an open recruitment process then there is an opportunity for a black or minority ethnic manager to be a part of that process. But how many clubs have open recruitment processes. Clubs sack a manager having already held conversations with the guy they want in, and an announcement usually comes within the next 36 hours. In a sense, the wording needs to change. We’ve always bounced around having zero, one, two, three, six black managers but yet they make up 30 to 40 per cent of players. Why is that hardly any are being transferred into those important positions? Why is there a lack of trust? Why is it that important black players have to go through a route that may take them into non-league football, while others get the top jobs in the game without experience. We’ve been asking those questions for quite some time and we want answers. Something has to change in the game if we are really serious about representation.”

“I’ve had enough conversations with players over a long period of time to recognize that they would be emotional, frustrated, angry, passionate. I know Troy and Raheem used the word ‘tired’ and I’ve got a lot of empathy on where they stand with everything. It’s triggered a reaction around the world, and I’ve been here before, we’ve talked about moments that might change society and we have to hope this… this certainly does feel different. People have spoken brilliantly this week, Chris Grant [Sport England board member] is someone I’ve met a number of times and lectured me in a few courses I went on about the institutional racism he feels exists in sporting bodies, in sporting governance. All of those areas are where we’ve got to focus our attention, the feeling that Troy spoke about with people feeling like there aren’t the opportunities there so young black people will refrain from taking qualifications or getting prepared because they feel there is a ceiling to what’s possible. We need their voices in those decision-making areas and we need to show people that opportunities do exist and that’s got to be at every level of the game,” England manager Gareth Southgate.

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