Arvind Hickman
Oct 21, 2019

Premier League campaign reinforces there is 'No room for racism'

Launch follows ugly scenes in Sofia this week, where players were subjected to racist abuse.

Film stars players including Everton's Fabian Delph
Film stars players including Everton's Fabian Delph

The Premier League has launched a campaign warning that there is "No room for racism"—days after several English footballers were subjected to racist abuse in a Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria.

It will be rolled out at all Premier League matches from tomorrow (Saturday) to Sunday 27 October, emphasising that racist conduct is not tolerated and urging supporters to take action: "If you see it, report it."

The spot explains that while there is room for passion, rivalry, drama, agony, ecstasy and every kind of emotion, there is no room for racism. At least one player from each Premier League club is featured.

On Tuesday night, England players were racially abused by sections of the home crowd as England beat Bulgaria 6-0 in Sofia. The game was suspended twice before half-time and English players had considered walking off.

After the match, the Bulgarian coach and several players denied that they had heard any racism, with the exception of captain Ivelin Popov, who was seen remonstrating with fans to stop the abuse at half-time.

The England players, coach Gareth Southgate and The Football Association strongly condemned the treatment and there have been calls on Uefa for a heavy-handed response—something it has been criticised for avoiding in the past.

"Our fans share the belief that racism has no place in football or wider society, but discrimination still exists among a minority. We will not tolerate racism in any form and urge anybody who witnesses racist behaviour to report it," Premier League interim chief executive Richard Masters said.

Racism reports on the rise

The urgency to tackle racism in football is clear. Anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out reported that, in the 2018/19 season, it received 422 reports of discrimination, up from 319 the previous year.

Alarmingly, incidents of racism continue to rise in both professional and grassroots football, accounting for 65% of reports—up 43% on the 2017/18 season.

"Tackling discrimination is a priority and we carry out a wide range of work in this area throughout the year," Masters said.

"Education is crucial and our clubs run fantastic community programmes focused on informing thousands of children and young people about the importance of equality and inclusion.

"Off the pitch, we continue to review and improve reporting and sanctioning processes for offenders. And within the game, we are committed to creating more pathways for black coaches."

The film is part of a broader offensive to combat racism in terraces across the country. This includes reviewing how offenders are identified, investigated and sanctioned, as well as education and rehabilitation programmes.

The Premier League said senior stewards have been trained to gather evidence and identify offenders at matches through the use of technology.

Another major concern is racist remarks towards footballers and fans on social media. Football authorities are "putting pressure" on social media businesses to tackle racism on their platforms, while the Premier League is working with its black, Asian and minority-ethnic advisory group to ensure the views of BAME players and coaches are heard and inform ongoing work.

A version of this story first appeared on PRWeek


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