FA welcomes players’ anti-racism manifesto, warns against unilateral action
A manifesto signed by England star Raheem Sterling and fellow footballers to combat racism in the sport received a positive response from English football’s governing body on Wednesday.
However, the Football Association (FA) recommended that if players are racially abused and want to walk off the pitch in protest — as some have intimated they will do in the future — they leave it to the referee and do not take the decision unilaterally.
Sterling, the victim of several instances of racial abuse this season, said teams whose fans racially abused players should be docked nine points in the manifesto published in Tuesday’s edition of The Times.
It also called for more black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in positions of power within football, more severe punishments for racist abuse and greater action by social media organisations, sponsors and traditional media.
The FA responded with a lengthy statement on Wednesday saying they agreed “completely with the manifesto’s statement that players have a fundamental right to a workplace free from discriminatory abuse”.
“Currently there is a protocol for players to follow if they hear discriminatory abuse which is designed to both protect the player and also to ensure that the matter can be investigated immediately and the appropriate steps taken,” it said.
“This can include the referee stopping the game and allowing the players to leave the field of play.
“We would encourage the protocol to be used rather than a player or players walking off as we believe that this is the best way to remove the burden from players.”
The FA also agreed there should be “radical change at the top” in terms of BAME coaches, employees and leaders.
“We have set ourselves the target to reach 16 per cent BAME employees by 2021 (from 13 per cent) and 11 per cent in leadership positions (from 5 per cent).”
In terms of representation on their own board, the FA said it met Sport England’s code for sports governance with regard to women (30% of the board) but there was no similar recommendation for BAME representatives.
“The FA’s Board is attended by The FA’s inclusion advisory board chair, Paul Elliott, and also has Rupinder Bains as a Board Director; but we would welcome specific targets for BAME representation across sport and the game.”
The FA said its chairman Greg Clarke had succeeded in getting UEFA to agree to review its approach to discrimination and would help study new options.
Clarke’s action followed the racial abuse directed at Sterling and Danny Rose in particular during the Euro 2020 qualifier in Montenegro in March.
The FA claimed that much of what was in the manifesto regarding punishment of clubs whose fans chant racist slogans has been implemented for a while.
“Since 2013 there has been direct liability for discriminatory behaviour in relation to mass chanting,” it said.
“The manifesto also asks for clubs and countries to be put into ‘special measures’ in the case of repeat offenders.
“The FA works to create action plans with clubs for any offences, not just repeat offences.”