How can we tackle racism in football?

It is a question that is being asked a lot and still a major issue. But not much seems to be happening to stop racism in football.

Kick It Out, a government-funded campaigning organisation, ‘enables, facilitates and works with the football authorities’. They aim to tackle all forms of discrimination both on and off the pitch. But how effective are they?

Rio Ferdinand has openly criticised the organisation in his book as ‘pointless’ and refused to wear the organisation’s T-shirt ahead of a match at Old Trafford back in 2012.

In response to this criticism, Richard Bates, Communications Manager, Kick It Out, said they felt ‘disappointed with the T-shirt boycott’ but he was pleased that players wished to ‘air their frustrations at the lack of action of the authorities’.

In a talk given today, Richard Bates expressed his concerns about footballers not understanding what exactly the organisation can do. He hoped that players would work with them in removing barriers they currently face, stating ‘there’s not enough players supporting what we do’.

Kick It Out would like to engage with Rio Ferdinand further saying ‘the outcome we’d like after everything is to work with him more closely because clearly he has a lot of thoughts and experience in his area of work’.

Bates believes that if footballers were to rally behind them and talk openly about the issues and discrimination they encounter, a lot more could be done. He says, ‘players need to step up to the plate because they are so powerful and have good opportunity publicly to get these messages out there’.

An example of the power footballers have is the case with Kevin-Prince Boateng, who suffered abuse from the supporters. As a result FIFA responded by quickly establishing their own anti-racism body within its own organisation led by Jeffery Webb. Showing that players involvement brings results.

Social media is proving to be the biggest platform for racism and discrimination attacks on players, with Kick It Out reporting 50 per cent of racial abuse incidents they dealt with during 2013/2014.

The organisation is in talks with the social media giant Twitter in ways they can work together to combat these attacks. Twitter have started removing people that use abusive language or target players.

The two platforms have also been building a connection with the police, where evidence is being built up in order to convict people using social media as a means of attack.

Kick It Out is slowly being recognised as the reporting body on social media for English football hate-related crimes. Still it is not as effective as it could be due to lack of resources and public support. Players can help create awareness by voicing their opinions and experiences. Player support and involvement could potentially bring about real change. Richard Bates said, ‘everyone could do more’.

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