Sir Alex. This is a societal thing. A reality for young people of colour is that the world you command has been unquestionably unfair to us in ma
It was only a few weeks ago that I was warning of a revolt among players of colour. I think it is fair to say that sections, black sections, of the game are in open rebellion.
Having spoken to some of the players, I think it’s obvious, they want some meaningful change.
Once again, the Professional Footballers Association’s chief Gordon Taylor has been amongst the first to act, issuing a new six point plan.
The 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 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.
Given Mr. Taylor’s members are the ones kicking out….oops….raising concerns, this is as it should be.
For some time it has been clear that younger players are unhappy in a number of areas when it comes to issues of race. Walking into dressing rooms with largely all white management staff is for some an uneasy reality. The demand for a “Roberts Rule” – as I now call the English version - is long overdue. The dearth of people of colour in top coaching and management jobs in the game is unacceptable.
“In the past players had to keep quiet about these sorts of issues because they wanted to stay around the game when they retired, even if it was only in a tired old backroom staff position,” one player put it to me. “We’re far more secure financially now so we don’t have to keep quiet and we are not going to. We’re not having it. It’s time for a real *********** change.”
Such views echo a growing number of black professional players. Jason Roberts’ uncomfortably frank assessments are hard to deny. What’s interesting is his strident, almost defiant, yet intelligent arguments are akin to his bustling game. That never say die attitude comes through. He is pushing and pushing hard and I suspect he has gained a loyal group of followers among younger players and powerful elite players.
Far more troubling than Jason’s pronouncements is the unacceptable way that Sir Alex Ferguson attempted to shut down debate on the issue. Not for the first time, the Legend has over stepped his mark on racial matters, something he could clearly use more education on. His inept attempt to silence Jason was totally uncalled for.
Sir Alex. This is a societal thing. A reality for young people of colour is that the world you command has been unquestionably unfair to us in many respects. We live in an increasingly diverse world and there is a great need for change and a wide array of opinions. Jason has every right to be heard and is only articulating what a lot of the players of colour are saying outside the white lines. They have said it for years behind closed doors.
Also, let’s hope Man U stalwart Rio Ferdinand doesn’t face sanction by the club for putting his boss in an “embarrassing” position by not wearing the Kick It Out shirt recently. The embarrassment was actually Sir Alex, trying to tell grown men of colour that he knows more about racial issues than they do and that he had the audacity to tell them how they should think on the matter.
The players are making the point that the game must change. Now! Unfortunately, Kick It Out, which has done years of laudable work educating players and fans about the need for mutual respect is a casualty. It was clear confidence was shaken during the Suarez affair, with Liverpool FC one of its principal partners responding appallingly. The fact that John
Terry was the principal in “racial slur gate,” had to lead to questions given his work for the organisation in the past.
Interestingly, many of the English game’s authorities are yet to speak on these matters. The Premier League, Football Association and Football League should jump on the PFA plan and endorse it as a first step. It’s not as though these measures are new to them.
One issue these governing agencies have is their own antiquated internal structures and chronic lack of diversity, which means they often find it difficult to accept change. Well, the players are increasingly realising they are the ones with the power. That’s why they should engage Jason more openly, embrace him, not ostracise him.
The most critical thing now is how the debate moves forward. I know there is serious talk about a black players group and there are some militant union campaigners pressing to get involved. And don’t think that agents aren’t loving this. There’s big money at stake. Every TV deal and contract hangs on the players performing. Any opportunity to strengthen their grip on the game will be seized on.
I for one, think we have reached that tricky part of the game. That point where we can see the cracks and fissures, but haven’t quite arrived at game saving solutions.
The PFA’s plan is a sound start. It needs to go further and fast. The game needs to get to grips with the obvious call from its young black professionals to have more of a say in its running.
The current tension is an inevitable part of the process of change. Resistance, concern, tension comes with the movement required to find a new order. US sports have long since gone through this. As our players become wealthier and more financially astute they are inevitably going to look to shift the playing field in their favour. After all, the game is nothing without those that run and kick that little sphere we all love.
Along with the Roberts Rule are we now seeing the beginnings of a US-style players union. Jason, what say you?