House of Commons Library

Racism in sport

Published Friday, May 17, 2019

An Opposition Day debate on Racism in sport is scheduled for Wednesday 22 May 2019. The subject of the debate has been selected by the Leader of the Opposition, Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP.

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On 11 April 2019, Sports Minister, Mims Davies, made a statement to the House following racist abuse of footballers:

The Government are concerned about the recent rise in racist abuse in football which threatens to overshadow everything we love about our national sport. Last weekend, the English Football League said that it was “saddened, disappointed and angered” after a weekend of fixtures was blighted by four separate incidents of alleged racism against players. At the same time, in the Premier League, Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha re-posted an online tweet calling him “a diving monkey”. This all happened on the very same weekend that the Premier League’s new “No Room for Racism” campaign was visible at grounds up and down the country.

Late last year, the unthinkable occurred—a banana skin was thrown on the pitch in the direction of a player during the north London derby. At the same time, we saw the abuse that Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling suffered at Stamford Bridge. We all witnessed the appalling scenes of racism directed at several of our England players in Montenegro. Homophobic and anti- semitic chanting, both here and abroad, has been prevalent in recent times… 

The Minister summarised some of the steps that had been taken to tackle the problem:

Putting a stop to this is a challenge that affects all fans, all clubs and all football agencies, at all levels. The Government are determined to help in tackling this problem. On 25 February, I brought many of the various administrators, campaign bodies, fan group representatives, players, managers and organisations together for a summit to discuss this issue and collectively decide on what steps they must take to help to eradicate it. At that summit, it was agreed that a number of areas needed to be examined further.

There were six initial areas: first, to review whether football’s current sanctioning regime goes far enough and, if not, what more is needed to act as a deterrent to this type of behaviour; secondly, to ensure that the partnership between football authorities and the police is close enough to improve the identification and sanctioning of offenders at matches; thirdly, to ask whether we give enough support to stewards and whether we can improve their capacity to deal with discrimination consistently throughout the leagues; fourthly, whether football can improve the information flow of incident reporting on the pitch, and support players; fifthly, how we can double down on efforts to ensure that match officials, stewarding operations and coaching and academy staff are all fully able to engage in their responsibilities to maintain an open and inclusive sporting environment; and finally, initiatives to help to increase the numbers of people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds into football professions beyond playing, with transparency and opportunities in the recruitment process absolutely central to this.

The Government will work with those key groups to deliver clear, tangible actions in the areas I have just described. My intention is to announce these in partnership with football before the end of the summer…

The websites of the football authorities contain information on what they are doing to combat racism – for example:

Kick it Out has been working to combat racism in football for over 25 years.

This debate pack gives further material on racism in football and other sports.

Commons Debate packs CDP-2019-0129

Authors: John Woodhouse; Bess Jap; Maria Lalic; Sarah Pepin

Topics: Equality, Racial discrimination, Sports and Olympic Games

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