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Racism Society's Problem Not Sport's, John Barnes Tells Students

Tue 28th Jan 2014 | Football Governance

Former Liverpool and England footballer John Barnes has warned of the dangers of complacency in the fight against racism during an address to members of Kingston University’s sports performance programme.

Barnes, 50, now works as a television pundit. He was a target for abuse from the terraces during his playing days in the 1980s and 1990s, and said that although such behaviour was less prevalent now, that did not mean it had died out altogether.

"From bananas being thrown on the pitch to overt racist chanting – just because we're not hearing it any more, the nature of racism hasn't changed," Barnes told the audience.

"For 90 minutes people aren't allowed to say or do certain things, but that doesn't mean it's gone away. And the more we believe that it has, then the bigger the danger is."

Commonly-suggested measures offered up for combating racism, such as banning orders and fines, totally missed the point, he said. Much of the problem was caused by unconscious racism which existed in almost every member of society.

Society absolved itself from responsibility, he added, if it said the mainstream was all right and it was just football that had the racism problem. "The only way we can get rid of discrimination is through education and explaining why we are the way we are.

"If you get bitten by a snake, you need to find out what type it is to treat the bite properly. You can't just deal with the symptoms of the venom, you need to know the cause, or it'll come back. It's the same with racism. We need to understand the cause and why it exists – then we can treat it."

Sports development manager Jo Heath said hosting such high-profile visitors was extremely motivational for students. "Having such inspirational figures come to talk to them and offer advice and insight based on their experience really contributes to our role helping them realise their goals.”

Posted by: Aaron Gourley

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