Power is key in the fight against racism

Yes, Sepp Blatter is a 75-year old Swiss who does not know what he is talking about and it is high time he spend more time with the grandchildren rather than run world football.

Such a reaction to his grotesque remarks that there is no racism in football and it can all be dealt with by a gentlemanly handshake, is wholly understandable. A conclusion all the more tempting as these interviews came about as Blatter, rocked by Fifa’s corruption scandal, was trying to rehabilitate himself.

He has just acquired a new head of PR and the interviews were clearly part of a plan to promote the new Blatter cleaning up Fifa. With the re-launch now going so badly wrong, you must doubt if the product is worth bothering about. But to think Blatter’s departure, which I don’t think is likely, will help deal with the enormous problems of racism in the game is almost as absurd as his remarks.

You only have to spend an afternoon at the grass roots of English football, as I have done recently, to see how convinced black and Asian players and officials are about the continuing problems of racism in the game. This is not an old monster that has been slain, this is still snorting its evil vapours.

True, the dark day of the 80s when John Barnes and many others had to cope with bananas thrown at them and monkey chants from the crowd have gone. But black and Asian players do suffer. So much so, that many of them are convinced that the white referees will never give them a fair decision if it means going against a white player. Their views may not be justified, but the fact that they feel it shows how huge the racial divide still is in football.

One reason for the divide is while we see black, even Asian players in the game, nothing has really changed at the decision making level of football: the level of coaches, managers, officials and administrators. Football has made all the right non-racist noises, passed exemplary resolutions, coined marvellous phrases such as ‘kick it out’. But where it matters in the board rooms and committee rooms there is hardly a black face to be seen.

In other words, football has failed to create a game which is the equivalent of Nelson Mandela’s rainbow nation. This is all the more surprising for while Blatter may have been spouting nonsense, Fifa’s historic record in the fight against racism is a good deal better than many other sports organisations. You only have to look back at how they dealt with apartheid South Africa to realise that.

At the end of the day racism is about power. And unless you change the power structure and promote equality at all levels you cannot deal with this scourge.


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