The difference in the way white footballers and footballers of colour are reported on and spoken about by pundits is a really interesting topic to dissect. Here are three of the biggest examples.


Media Coverage

Media coverage is perhaps the most glaring example of this differential treatment. Take the case of Raheem Sterling and the way the Sun and Daily Mail reported on Sterling buying a house for his mother, compared to Phil Foden. The article in question refers to Sterling as a ‘flop’ and ‘disgrace’, with a part of his house even described as vulgar. But in the article about Foden, he is said to be a ‘starlet’ and someone who ‘has set up his future’. Essentially, one article is full of praise for Phil Foden, which of course isn’t a bad thing; the problem is when you contrast and compare the articles by the same publication, only to realise the stark differences in reporting — which is worrying.

The above is but one instance of racial bias in media coverage, but there are countless other examples of similar scrutiny: Tosin Adarabioyo buying a house, Raheem Sterling eating at Greggs, Raheem Sterling shopping at Primark. These examples may be innocuous, but it’s important we acknowledge the ‘special’ attention paid to black players, in particular, concerning what they do with their hard-earned money.

Pundit Talk

Moving on to the second case, this is the manner in which some pundits speak about footballers of colour. A notable example of this is how Graeme Souness speaks about Paul Pogba. Souness has always been quick to criticise Pogba even when he’s not playing, so much so it borderlines on a vendetta as opposed to unbiased, neutral punditry. The most recent instance of this is when Souness was analysing Manchester United vs Leeds United (Pogba registered four assists in this game, a feat only six other footballers have been able to achieve in Premier League history). Instead of giving praise where it was due, Souness described the feat as expected from a 100-million-pound player. Interestingly, fellow 100-million-pound man Jack Grealish (coincidentally white) has only registered two assists in eight Premier League games. Fellow pundit, Micah Richards, challenged Souness on this point but the conversation was swiftly changed.

Such clashes of opinion suggest that Sky and pundits like Souness need to start taking responsibility for fuelling, what could reasonably be interpreted, as racial abuse of footballers — even if it is unintended.

Racial Bias is Real

The final case for racial bias in football is explained through the idea of indoctrinated bias that many commentators inadvertently display. RunRepeat (a Danish media firm) conducted a study on racial bias in commentating with some eye-opening findings. I’d implore you to read the full study, but here are some of the key points to note. After analysing over 2,000 statements from 80 games across some of Europe’s top leagues, it was evident that lighter-skinned players were more widely praised for intelligence (62.60 per cent), hard work (60.40 per cent) and quality (62.79 per cent). However, commentators are 6.59 times more likely to mention a player’s ‘power’ if he is darker-skinned and 3.38 times more likely to mention pace. The study also found that 63.33 per cent of criticism from commentators in regard to the intelligence of a player is aimed at those with darker skin. For criticism of a player’s quality, the figure is 67.57 per cent if you have darker skin, compared to 32.43 per cent for those with lighter skin tone.

The above analysis leads to the view that racial bias in football is not a case of isolated incidents, but a persistent problem that exemplifies a form of racial abuse. Media giants such as Sky Sports continuously promote anti-racism as part of their company ethic, but it is all empty gestures unless real action is taken to protect players of colour.