Racism in football is back in the headlines, but are things really as bad as some would have us believe?
IT is difficult for a white, British male to write about racism in football without being accused of being racist. But to hell with it, I am going to anyway.
I could mention the fact that I grew up in a very ethnically diverse area on the East London/Essex border in the 1970's and that many of my friends were non-white. I could mention the fact that my mother was born in Burma and that I have often been mistaken for a 'foreigner' myself. But none of that matters.
No. I am just a normal white guy who is getting sick and tired of people like Rio Ferdinand moaning about how badly they are treated. Do me a favour.
Let's get one thing clear. This is not 1979. Things have moved on. These days, black players have never had it so good. The so-called discrimination they face is nothing compared to the shocking scenes that greeted players like John Barnes and Cyrille Regis, 30 years ago.
To you or I, Ferdinand is just a footballer. He is no different to Wayne Rooney or Ji Song Park. Yet he always refers to himself as a black footballer, as though that makes him different. He is bringing race and colour into it, no one else.
Now he wants to form a breakaway black-only players union. The current union looks after all footballers whatever their colour, creed or religion, yet Ferdinand wants one that excludes everyone except black players. Does that seem right?
Football, and society in general, has worked hard to break down the divides that existed 30 years ago. Equality was the aim and it has been achieved.
But that is not enough for guys like Rio. He wants to take things further. He wants to create new divides. He wants black players to have special rights over and above those of his white colleagues.
So now the FA, in their infinite wisdom, have announced plans to use 'positive discrimination' to ensure we increase the number of black managers and coaches over the next three years. That's right, they are not considering giving all potential new managers extra training to ensure we produce better coaches. No. They just want to raise the number of black coaches to appease Ferdinand. Genius.
This will lead to a situation where a stronger white candidate will be overlooked for a weaker black candidate just so the club do not appear racist. Rotas will be made so a certain number of black candidates have to be considered for each job, and if they are not successful...well you join the dots.
Since when has it been racist to employ the best candidate for the job? Forcing clubs to employ a black manager, however, is.
I would go further and question if there is really is a serious problem with the number of black managers currently in the game anyway. What percentage of white players go into management when they retire? I do not have the figures to hand but it can only be a very small number when you look at the jobs available compared to the number of players who retire every year.
Also, most club chairmen prefer to select a manager with experience. It appears only the same few managers jump from club to club. They get sacked somewhere and then appear somewhere else within weeks.
Therefore the bigger problem is a lack of opportunity for all new, young managers, regardless of their colour. It is a tough profession to get into, especially when clubs are under so much pressure to have instant success. Is that not the issue we should be looking at?
The other point worth remembering is that it is only over the past 20 years or so that the number of black players has significantly increased. Many have only recently finished playing, and many are still playing or working in the media, so it will take a few years for them to gain the necessary qualifications and experience at Academy level.
Therefore it stands to reason that over the next 10 years there will be natural increase in the number of black managers without any need for any of this 'positive discrimination.' Actually I will stop using that term. What makes it positive? It is simply favouring one group over another, the very definition of prejudice.
Anyway, I digress.
The fact is, Ferdinand is putting the fight against racism back 20 years. He is creating problems that do not exist and making people think about race again when they had stopped doing so.
There was a time when you knew the number of black of players at every club. They stood out because they were so rare. Unique. Now you don't even notice. They are as much a part of football as over-priced tickets and Chicken Balti pies.
Yet the minute a high-profile black player claims discrimination, it is never questioned. It must be right as they said so. So now players like Ferdinand set the agenda and no one can say anything against them for fear of being labelled racist.
Of course there are still isolated incidents. The odd moron who thinks they are clever. (Step forward John Terry) But these incidents are occurring less and less. We need to keep working, educating, and ensuring the guilty are punished sufficiently, of course, but lets not kid ourselves the problems are as bad as some would have us believe.
Kick It Out, and campaigns like it, are doing a good job when we don't need to think about them. They are tackling the problems without us even noticing. Drawing attention to it, as Ferdinand has done, will only do more harm than good.