It seems this season shall ever be remembered as the year football went back a decade. In footballing terms, things are moving forward, with FIFA implementing new initiatives such as goal line technology to improve the game for everyone. Yet football seems to be stuck in an era of the past, where discrimination is not only present but acceptable. In recent examples, racism has been the selected form of discrimination highlighted to the public but I do not assume that this is the only form of discrimination present in football.
I’m sure most people have heard or seen something to do with John Terry’s high profile court case. John Terry, former England captain was accused of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand during a match in October. Instantly this incident hit the national and international press and quickly, football, particularly British football, was being slandered all over the world. The Premier League is said to be the finest league in the world yet we cannot guarantee players in that league that they will be safe from discrimination. We cannot guarantee that any black player will not be a victim of racial abuse, we cannot guarantee any gay player that he will not be a victim of homophobic abuse. Why can we not guarantee such things that should be so easily adhered to not only in a football league but in a modern society? John Terry was found not guilty but surely the damage has been done. It is not my place to speculate the correctness of the Judge’s decision, however the saga seems to be rumbling on.
Nobody seems to be satisfied with the decision however. Terry has said nothing and everybody who has commented seems dissatisfied with the outcome. Was John Terry guilty? Or do people simply want him to be used an example leading racism and discrimination finally being kicked out of football?
I don’t like to speculate, but I believe it is the latter. I’m sure not everyone believes Terry is innocent, however some people possibly do. I personally know that finding Terry guilty would have sent a huge message to all: British Football will not tolerate discrimination. Although the FA brought swift discipline upon Luis Suarez earlier this season, a second punishment to a player would reiterate the lesson. I am aware this case was out of the jurisdictional of football association, I urge them to take their own actions and proceed with their own investigations. Terry cannot be tried on the same charge in a court of law, even if new evidence was to be found in the future, but he can be punished by the FA. The FA have an opportunity to take a huge step forward in eliminating discrimination in British football. If, after another investigation, Terry is still found to be innocent then who would fault the FA for trying? They can send a message to young players and fans alike.
Before the European Championships, the BBC broadcast a Panorama programme warning people of the possible discrimination people may face at the summer’s tournament. This prompted many a viewer to brand Ukraine and Poland racist countries. Yet during the Championship there was just one racist incident, many less than occurred in England last year. How can we produce a documentary detailing racism in another country when we cannot tackle the problem in our own country? If somebody had made a documentary that portrayed Britain as racist, would that be an incorrect portrayal? Can we suggest that Britain isn’t racist when racism and discrimination are such prominent issues? Is football in Britain racist? I’d like to think not but we can have no defence should somebody suggest that it is.
Some people would argue that the punishments for racism are not severe enough. Luis Suarez’s punishment seemed adequate but he was punished by the FA rather than the law. Even if Terry had been found guilty, the maximum punishment would have been a fine of just £2,400. A sum Terry would earn back in just two and half hours. Yes, his reputation may have been tarnished, but one good game and everybody would have forgotten. This is another reason I urge the FA to send a message. Discrimination is a serious criminal offence and I would personally like to see stricter punishments for those players and people who are found to have broken these laws.
At the moment Britain is part of the problem and footballers are culprits. The players are role models and this gives them the perfect opportunity to force change. Britain is part of the problem and I’d like us to be a big part of the solution. If our laws are stricter and our footballer’s are used as examples surely we can make steps towards eliminating this horrendous problem.