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The Existence of Racism in Football

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It is blatant in modern-day football that there is a racist agenda against black players. In the modern footballing era, one might think that racism no longer exists due to movements such as ‘Kick It Out’, ‘Show Racism the Red Card’, and increased action from the English Football Association to stop racist chanting and abuse at matches.

However, I feel there is still a huge problem of racism in football, especially with fans on social media and even the press, newspapers such as The Sun and The Daily Mail are the main culprits. I am extremely interested in this topic as I am an avid supporter and follower of football, I support Crystal Palace Football Club and racism is often targeted at one of our players called Wilfried Zaha, and also Raheem Sterling who plays for England. The racism can be seen clearly which can be seen by comparing the treatment of them in the media to white players doing the same thing. It is global because the problem of racism in football is evident across the leagues in many countries, this can severely limit current and upcoming talent as they feel they will not be respected in this profession; if they are subject to racism, it can lead to players missing out on something big through lack of belief and trust in themselves and the sport, further impacting the sport as it would not be able to carry on encompassing people from all walks of life.

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For example, the Daily Mail reported on two Manchester City FC players who had bought houses for their mothers and the difference in the way it has been reported is disgraceful. Both Phil Foden and Tosin Adarabioyo bought the houses for themselves and their parents to live in, however, Tosin Adarabioyo gets slated by the press for doing so. For example, Adarabioyo’s generosity for buying a home for his parents has not been mentioned at all. However, for Foden it is the main focus of the article. Adarabioyo is portrayed in a negative light (perhaps a subtle use of ad Hominem) and the main focus of the article is the fact that he has never started a premier league game. Instead of focusing on who he has bought the house for, we are constantly told his salary and his problematic contract negotiations. and this strongly contrasts Foden’s portrayal where we are consistently reminded how he is doing it for his family and how he is keeping ‘the close-knit family together.Adarabioyo was 20 when the article was published and Foden was 18, both very young, both play for Manchester City FC, both bought houses for their parents, and both articles were published by the same newspaper. So what’s the difference that results in Adarabioyo getting bad press for it and Foden getting praised? The color of their skin. For a very young player attempting to break into premier league football, the media can play a huge role in self-confidence, especially if you have been negatively portrayed in the second most widely read newspaper in the UK that reaches 32.1 million people monthly before you’ve even had the chance to make a name for yourself. And all this bad press because of the colour of your skin can really damage the confidence of a 20-year-old. Raheem Sterling also commented on the matter in a post on Instagram on 9 December 2018 about the altering portrayal of these two cases and said “I think this is unacceptable both innocent have not done anything wrong but just by the way it has been worded. This young black kid is looked at in a bad light. Which helps fuel racism and aggressive behaviour.” This came after he was racially abused by chelsea fans resulting in the suspension and banning of four people from the club. The fact this is still happening in football is deeply saddening, and just goes to show that racism still exists in football, and you don’t have to look far to see it.

The.Daily.Mail has a reputation for being a right wing newspaper, according to a survey of 2040 GB adults: ‘The Daily Mail is seen as Britain’s most right-wing newspaper. Britain’s most read newspaper is described by 44% of Brits as “very right-wing”, far ahead of any other paper. In total, 81% considered the paper to be right-wing to one degree or another.’ This shows that the newspaper would not be very neutral in this matter due to its right-wing political stance, which therefore limits its reliability to show a fair and unbiased presentation of the facts. The Daily Mail have a track record for racist/ racially controversial articles which means that they are more likely to have some sort of racial prejudice and past experiences prove they may be twisting the facts. ‘The New Yorker’ published an article entitled ‘Mail Supremacy’ which talked about ‘The Daily Mail’, its structure, how it’s run and more. This small part stood out to me and is undeniably gobsmacking evidence of what happens at ‘The Daily Mail’:

‘Brendan Montague, a former Mail reporter and the director of the Request Initiative, a community interest company that makes Freedom of Information requests for charities, said, “The censorship is almost entirely self-imposed, and done through a severe form of natural selection. If you write something that’s blatantly prejudicial but not legally racist, you will be rewarded. None of the front-line reporters I worked with were racist, but there’s institutional racism. ”

This shows that it may not be the journalists who are racist but there is “institutional racism”. Writers are rewarded for ‘blatant prejudice’ in their articles which show that publications may have a vested interest in adding racist remarks in order for the author to get something out of it. Therefore, the paper is an unreliable source for facts in this matter. My main focus on these two articles is simply how they have been portrayed extremely differently instead of what is said in the articles. Simply because of the colour of their skin, one is praised and one is shamed for ‘splashing out’.

Racism in football is not only apparent in England, in Spain there is a huge problem with monkey chants and noises and also a well known instance of a banana being thrown onto the pitch. On 27 April 2014, during a game between Villarreal and Barcelona, a Villarreal fan threw a banana onto the pitch as Dani Alves was readying himself to take a corner. The response from Dani Alves was to pick up the banana and eat it before continuing the game. An article from the Independent explains the situation, they do not have a vested interest to lie as they do not gain anything from writing biasedly about spanish football and racism within it. They also have no affiliations with either club and so can take a neutral standpoint. The author has the ability to observe and so have done their research and would know all the facts before publishing an article on the matter. They have a strong reputation of being unbiased and politically are supposedly quite central, ‘just over a third (37%) of people consider it to sit in the political centre – more than double the rate for any other newspaper.’ This shows that they have no political standpoint that would negatively impact their view on the matter. After the game, He later commented on the matter:

‘We have suffered this in Spain for some time,’ Alves said.

‘You have to take it with a dose of humor. We aren’t going to change things easily. ‘If you don’t give it importance, they don’t achieve their objective.”

This further shows that racism is a big problem in the Spanish League. Dani Alves would not want to say that there is racism in the league he plays in as it undermines his workplace, so to admit it is a problem openly is very courageous and shows just how serious it is.

The equality organisation Kick It Out ran a global survey on racism at football matches, it reflects the views of nearly 27,000 supporters from 38 different countries. Commenting on the results:

‘Lord Ouseley, the chairman of Kick It Out, said: “If you were asking this question 10 years ago, certainly 25 years ago, about how many fans had witnessed racist abuse it probably would have been about 90%, so the fact it’s 50% is both disappointing and pleasing, because we’ve moved and are moving in the right direction.’

Being the chairman of the organisation Lord Ouseley may be expected to say that things have improved, otherwise the use and effectiveness of the organisation is put into bad repute. There is also a chance that he may be misrepresenting the facts, only including where things are better in order to make the organisation seem like it is doing well. However, he has the ability to observe as he has taken a survey representing a large group and he also has expertise as he works in the area and runs the organisation, so he knows what he’s talking about. Lord Ouseley says the results are ‘disappointing but pleasing’ and I would agree with this. The fact that racism has decreased is brilliant, however this fact is overshadowed by there still being 54% of fans who witness racist abuse.

In England, another example springs to mind, Wilfried Zaha and Eden Hazard. Wilfried Zaha came to the press and said that he wanted more protection from the referees. He feels that he is targeted by players unfairly with dangerous tackles that go relatively unpunished. He said ‘I know that for a fact [opponents are out there to hurt me] but I just don’t know what to do anymore,’ ‘I end up arguing with referees because today the guy studded me in my shin – do they need to break my leg before anyone gets a red card?” He was met with praise from most, however Sky Sports pundit Ian McInally has labelled him a ‘cry baby’ for wanting more protection. He continued, ‘I cannot believe he has come out and said, ‘I need protection, I’m getting kicked because I’m such a good player’. This may not seem racist at first glance, however when Eden Hazard called for the same, there was no outcry or complaints. The Sky Sports article is essentially a report of what Hazard said on the matter and there is nothing that disagrees with what he has said with Ian McInally not speaking up or saying anything, whereas when Zaha asks for the same treatment he is branded a ‘crybaby’. This is not explicitly racist and may not be racist at all, however the differing treatment could be interpreted as an agenda against Wilfried Zaha, simply because of his race.

Raheem Sterling may be the biggest and most well-known example of racism, simply through his portrayal in the media. There are countless examples of negative headlines and comments made about Sterling, and many with absolutely no validity at all or any substance in the article; they are simply written to incite controversy and further the agenda against Sterling. The Twitter thread is simply a compilation of many headlines and articles run, I chose this because it contains 38 examples of when the press have written ridiculous articles about him or included him in something with no relevance to himself.

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