The esteemed chairman of Kick It Out, Lord Ouseley launched a damaging verdict of vicious situations resulting from racial fallouts in professional football, and the inability of the governing bodies, the clubs themselves and the players to react such allegations and accusations.
It was hardly surprising that Lord Ouseley criticised the lack of ‘leadership’ and ‘morality’ shown from the above and the initial lack of urgency to deal with the racial virus affecting football is utterly ridiculous.
In the aftermath, Chelsea and ex-England captain John Terry was charged with using racial language was still able to participate in Euro 2012, and lead his club side for a year without any action. His four match ban was laughable, and a disgrace to those who want to eradicate these demons from the game.
Liverpool, too, were guilty of pleading needless support to Luis Suarez when he was found to use racial language towards Partice Evra. Despite cultural misunderstandings, something pointed out by David Bond at the BBC, he was rightly punished and missed a good portion of Liverpool’s struggle last season – was it enough?
It was clear that these clubs were intent on protecting their most valuable “assets” despite their racial actions, which, in any other workplace, would have resulted in suspension and then, the sack.
What’s so different about football? These clubs and multi-million pound machines, relying on their “assets” to provide the foundation for the riches professional sport brings. These players appear to be bigger than the “organisation” itself.
The old case of the “individual” against the “organisation” is clear. Transparency, however how much we crave it, will never transpire in a business that is solely focused on the field. Clubs and the industry need to decide what’s bigger? The player or the organisation.
No one, as of yet, has made a moral-stance in protecting the greater good of the game. The PFA chairman Gordon Taylor spoke about introducing safety nets to protect players from the small minority of fans who stupidly throw objects, but he fails to recognise the bigger safety fears and possible precautions from not dealing with these gross misconduct on the field. These are role models and leaders in sport. Their actions are seen worldwide by millions, and allowing major offences, like racism, to go unpunished (which a four-match ban is) is truly disrespectful everyone.
“Leadership is so important; you have to send a powerful message that racism is completely unacceptable,” Lord Ouseley told the Guardian. “But there is a moral vacuum. The big clubs look after their players as assets. There was no bold attitude from them, to say that they would not put up with it.”
The lack of clear leadership at these times show that football is an industry catching up. The PR-fails of Liverpool (Suarez t-shirts, for one) show that there is too much inward focus in terms of communication and leadership, and much infatuation about dealing with the club rather than the industry. The FA needs to protect the game, but clubs have to be singing of the same song sheet.
It will be good to see these “assets” would last more damaging accusations. Chelsea sacked Adrian Mutu for taking recreational drugs, Rio Ferdinand was suspended for a year for missing a drugs test, Kolo Toure was banned for taking diet pills, but no one yet, big professional club or governing body, has taken decisive action against clear acts of racism.
Sheffield United sacked Ched Evans after the striker was charged with sexual assault. Lee Hughes’s career was put on hold for three years after he was imprisoned for causing death by dangerous driving and was released by his club West Brom. These are small signs of leadership after very serious offences. Racism should fit in this category.
Players should report every encounter of racism suffered, but if those accused of being racist are to be found guilty, they should be banned for a year. At least. Not by the governing body, but by the clubs – that would show some real leadership and would communicate more openly that these awful acts of racism will not be tolerated, whether you are deemed as a “valuable” asset or not.