By Matthew Bazell
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It’s almost a first this football author to write a piece that defends the modern game as I usually rail against its obscene greed and sanitisation. But when MP’s single out football as having racism problem, as they did this week, I feel the need to defend the sport. The issue of tackling racism is one of the very few things where, in England at least, the modern game has made great strides for the common good.
Parliament might be a beautiful structure built of solid material but it’s a metaphorical glass house full of stone throwers. A paper brought out this week by MP’s, highlighted the lack of ethnic diversity at management and administration level. Indeed if you are going to address a racism issue in football you would start there. To quote Les Ferdinand “I watch our [Spurs] games from the Directors box. 99% of the time I’m the only black person in there”. But this is the business side of the game, and it’s no surprise that the people who run football tend to look the same as people who run other global corporations. This simply reflects a wider society issue, therefore are we going to hear the MPs give the same message to, for example the banking industry? I can bet you that a game of park football will be far more racially integrated than an office party held for a typical media or advertising company.
The case of John Terry and Anton Ferdinand is one that has given fuel to people who brand the game as still being racist. I believe that’s a harsh accusation because John terry is an individual and in any industry you cannot account for an individual being a prat. All you can do is punish that person if warranted and in John Terry’s case the FA acted accordingly by striping him of his England captaincy. Let’s get some perspective here: in the 1970s and 1980s black players had bananas thrown at them along with monkey chants from some ironically un-evolved creatures. The kind of folk that would have given Charles Darwin a few sleepless nights before releasing Origin of the Species. In the time since then, we’ve seen an industry massively improve its act to a degree where change is clearly measurable. In the same period of time the demographic of Parliament hardly changed. For example, the Labour Party presents itself has being the party of tolerance, yet thirteen years of power and Paul Boatang was the only black man to have held a ministerial position. A person with nine missing fingers can count on their hands how many black Conservative MPs there have been. Yes David Cameron does have black pals who he invites round his house for tea, but they usually tend to be heads of State. So we’ve seen no change in Parliament during the period of time when football tacked a racism problem and for the better part succeeded. If the game mirrored the House of Commons Viv Anderson would still be the only black man to have ever played for England.
Let me make it clear that I say these things as a white person and some people will say that I don’t know what it’s really like to be a minority (actually I do, because whites were the minority in my school and in many cases had it tough). I’m not saying that there is no problem, but my issue is with the hypocrisy of those who take the high ground when their own industries show such an appalling example. Government and media institutions that point the racism finger at football, need to take a hard look at their own industries. Honesty, it’s like Gary Glitter saying “Society has a paedophile problem which really needs to be addressed!”
Written by Follow@MatthewBazell
Matthew Bazell is the author of 'Theatre of Silence' which can now be purchased on Kindle http://www.amazon.co.uk/Theatre-Silence-Lost-Football-ebook/dp/B008TSMWOC/ref=pd_rhf_dp_p_t_4