[Press and Public Relations] New Research on Racism in Local Football

No 44

For more information on this story please contact Steven Bradbury on 0116 252 5159

A survey of local football clubs affiliated to Leicestershire and Rutland County FA

Issues of racism, ethnicity and player and spectator behaviour in local football, by Steven Bradbury , Sir Norman Chester Centre for Football Research, University of Leicester

The research

New research which examines the views of local football club secretaries in Leicestershire and Rutland around issues of racism, ethnicity and player and spectator behaviour offers some interesting insights into the arena of local parks football.

The research findings suggest that whilst general player and spectator behaviour was considered to be satisfactory by many club secretaries, perceptions of racism differed markedly across a range of social, cultural and geographical distinctions and a large majority of all club secretaries felt there was, at least, a small amount of racism in local football in Leicestershire and Rutland.

A significant number of club secretaries - often those based at more 'multi-ethnic' clubs - reported some very real experiences of incidents of racism involving players and spectators and expressed concern as to the continued existence of 'racialised' tensions between players from different ethnic backgrounds.

The responses of referees and the local County FA in dealing with issues of racism in local football were seen to be problematic by a significant proportion of club secretaries in our sample. Similarly, the Leicester Equality Through Sports (LETS) 'Sports Charter' which was specifically designed to tackle problems of racism in local parks football in this area, was also framed by many respondents as a less than adequate response to dealing with these important issues.

Nonetheless, with specific reference to reported incidents of racism in local football, the responses of club secretaries in our local sample group compared favourably with findings from a similar study undertaken by researchers at Leeds Metropolitan University on racism in local football in West Yorkshire. Of course, the comparative value of these findings has to be placed against the broader back-cloth of a series of locally specific social and cultural conditions which go beyond the narrow context of local football and which allude, in part, to the differential spread of ethnic minority communities across different regions and also to the way in which ethnic and cultural diversity might be positively promoted and valued in specific locales such as Leicester.

Some of the research findings

1.      Ethnic minority participation in local football

2.      Club secretaries' views on issues of player and spectator behaviour and issues of racism in local football

3.      Club secretaries' views on the perceived 'natural' attributes of players from different ethnic backgrounds

4.      The Leicester Equality Through Sports (LETS) 'Sports Charter'


5.      Club secretaries' views on the extent of racism in local football

The Issues

In recent decades, the emergence of a number of localised initiatives designed to promote 'anti-racism' in professional football and the development of a sophisticated and nationally co-ordinated campaign to 'Kick Racism out of Football' has led to a significant reduction in overt racist activity among fans at professional football clubs and helped contribute towards the creation of a safer and more welcoming environment for some fans from ethnic minority backgrounds.

These national and localised initiatives are also committed to addressing some more 'hidden' semi-institutionalised barriers which might limit, more fully, the participation of ethnic minority communities in the activities of their local professional football clubs, with specific reference to spectating, playing and administrative employment.

One such initiative in Leicester - the Foxes Against Racism campaign - as well as working closely with Leicester City Football Club, has also made attempts to address issues of racism in local parks football following the Government Football Task Force (FTF) recommendations laid out in the 1998 report 'Eliminating Racism in Football'. Indeed, many of the recommendations made in this report with respect to addressing issues of racism in local football were the result of submissions made to the FTF by local groups in Leicester, including prominent local 'black' and 'Asian' football clubs, who alluded to the continued existence of incidents of racist intimidation, abuse and violence in local parks football in the region.

This research identifies the levels and spread of ethnic minority participation in local football in Leicestershire and offers the views of local club secretaries on issues of player and spectator behaviour with specific reference to issues of racism. Further, the research offers an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Leicester Equality Through Sports (LETS) 'Sports Charter', which was set up specifically to address problems of racism in parks football in Leicestershire.

Some comments on the research

The author of the report, Steve Bradbury, of the Sir Norman Chester Centre for Football Research at the University of Leicester, says,

Beyond the popular public image of Leicester as a thriving 'multi-cultural' city where ethnic diversity is often positively promoted and valued, the findings of this research might suggest that the arena of local parks football is a site in which overt forms of racist abuse and other racialised tensions are all to commonplace.

At a personal level, some local players and spectators must exercise greater restraint and take more responsibility for their behaviour in this respect. At an organisational level, the local football authorities and other key local agencies need to work together, more productively, to ensure that incidents of racism are dealt with, swiftly and appropriately, in accordance with stated practices and policies laid out in the Leicester Equality Through Sports (LETS) 'Sports Charter'.

The great strides made in combating racism in the professional game in recent years must also be reflected in local amateur football in order to create an environment where football can be enjoyed and participated in by all of Leicester's communities. We must not forget that local parks football, especially at youth level, can potentially provide a fertile recruiting ground for young players with the ability and aspirations to go on to play for Leicester City Football Club.

Mark Laywood - Sport on Parks Officer for the Arts and Leisure department at Leicester City Council, says "Clearly the low levels of awareness of the Leicester Equality Through Sports (LETS) 'Sports Charter' are disappointing when considering the processes involved to improve the communication channels through the Foxes Against Racism campaign. However we will continue to monitor its effectiveness and investigate methods of improvement accordingly"

Piara Powar, National Co-ordinator, Kick It Out, football's national anti-racism campaign, says 'We know from both research and anecdotal evidence that racial abuse and violence of players from ethnic minority groups is endemic across the country. It remains the single biggest issue requiring sustained action from local football administrators and clear leadership from the FA.

As a campaigning organization, Steve Bradbury's research allows us to examine how a more targeted and sustainable campaign can be taken forward to ensure racism at the grassroots is effectively challenged. It is clear from the report that what was a model initiative needs to be re-examined by all partners to ensure the scheme is effective.

Paul Morrison, General Secretary, Leicestershire and Rutland County FA, says " The County FA applaud Steve Bradbury for his investigation work into this subject and always support any initiatives that reduce racism in football at all levels of the game and will continue to do so"

A full copy of the report and its findings are available at www.le.ac.uk/snccfr/

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Information supplied by: Barbara Whiteman
Last updated: 28 February 2002 10:30
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