It has been a dark fortnight for the game of football in the UK. After the sexist comments made by Sky Sports presenters Andy Grey and Richard Keys there was widespread public outrage. Understandably so, of course.
Due to the sheer volume of material produced about said incident, I have hitherto abstained from writing about it. Indeed, I still do not intend to revert back to all that has been said and done. The fact remains, though, that no one ought to have been in any way surprised by the views they held. Yes, the fact they had been foolish enough to broadcast these views on more than one occasion is perhaps somewhat surprising. Nevertheless, they merely showed us what we already knew – that such out-dated opinions are inherent within football.
The unpleasant truth lying behind the whole story is that football stadiums remain home to a minority of people who are, in some ways at least, very much behind the times. Some people, and it must be recognised as only being a minority of people, leave notions of acceptable social behaviour at the turnstiles and instead, for two hours every Saturday afternoon, act in ways that cannot be condoned in modern society. Unfortunately, we all know this to be true.
Sexism is just one area in which football is lagging behind the times. Homophobia and racism are also both far too commonplace within the game in this country.
There is widespread casual racism from the fans in all stadiums. Fans will unite to sing about how Park Ji Sung eats dogs, Adebayor's dad washes elephants and Kenwyne Jones sells watches on the beach. Although this cannot be deemed acceptable in any way, it remains a lighter side to the racism present in the terraces. This is the 'acceptable face of racism' that is all too widespread.
More concerningly however, there are pockets of football fanatics at stadiums up and down the country who partake in racial abuse every weekend that is much darker than these chants. When a black player goes to retrieve the ball, take a corner or is suspected of unsportsmanlike behaviour, they are subjected to obscenities that are more suited to the deep south of the USA in the 19th Century than a 21st Century developed country. These comments are not meant in a light-hearted manner but have far more disturbing and sinister motivations.
The reason I am writing this, not that a reason is necessarily needed to address an issue with such gravitas, is that today I began on the road to making a film about the racial intolerance that can be found in the terraces of football stadia in England. Hopefully working with the 'Let's Kick Racism out of Football' campaign, players of past & present and football clubs across the country, I will be:
- Exploring just how commonplace and serious this problem is.
- Examining why football stadiums act as hotbeds for such behaviour
- Assessing what exactly is being done, and indeed what can be done, to eradicate this problem.
As such, this is almost certainly an issue that I will be returning to over the coming months as the project develops.
Thoughts, comments and opinions please...