Only A Game? - The racism row that refuses to go away

Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand stands dejected after Phil Jones scores an own goal during the UEFA Champions League, Group C match at Old Trafford, Manchester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 22, 2011. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand stands dejected after Phil Jones scores an own goal during the UEFA Champions League, Group C match at Old Trafford, Manchester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 22, 2011. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
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It doesn’t really matter if you agree or disagree with the possibility a black players’ football union, the fact that it’s even been suggested is where the real issue lies and unless it’s taken seriously racism will continue to fester.

Current and former players have come out in favour of a black players’ football union but the idea has also split opinion in the game.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes that the formation of a new union would weaken the fight against racism whilst former Wales international Nathan Blake thinks that the new group would have much more of an impact.

Last weekend over 30 black players, including Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, refused to wear ‘Kick-it-out’ t-shirts.

It’s also been confirmed by a lawyer representing the group that talks have begun and although they are only at a preliminary stage, the group is going by the name ‘the Black Players’ Association’.

Peter Herbert, who chairs the Society of Black Lawyers, said:

“I think we have reached a watershed. The Society of Black Lawyers have been looking at the situation and held informal talks with a few black players.

“What we needed essentially was for black players themselves to take the initiative which they now appear to have done and form a progressive black footballers’ association which can properly represent their interests and speak on their behalf whenever there is a legal issue - they suffered abuse in Serbia, they suffer abuse in the UK.

“Or there is the more mundane discrimination type of matters which give rise to concern every day of the week for the majority of our community.

“That is what we are assisting with. We are in discussions, things are at a preliminary stage.”

It’s worrying that black players feel that they are not getting the support they need when it comes to racism. Many black players from different leagues and from various different clubs have all come out and said that they think the way in which the English Football Association dealt with the John Terry-Anton Ferdinand racism row was a disgrace - and they are right.

It’s ridiculous for people like Arsene Wenger and Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson to accuse black players who want to set up their own union, of creating an ‘us against them mentality’.

The English FA did that damage when it took them over a year conclude that Terry had indeed used racist language during a match between Chelsea and QPR last season.

Instead, the FA said that they would wait to conduct their own investigation after the police investigated the matter. Terry was found not guilty of using racist language by the courts but the FA ruled that he had and fined him over £200,000 and banned him for four games.

If I was a black player I would be feeling the exact same way as Anton and Rio Ferdinand - I too would want to be part of a players’ union that did more to combat racism.

The reason that so many black players want to set up their own union is not because of what Terry said it’s because they feel that the people who are supposed to be in charge are not taking the issue seriously.

It’s naive of anyone to think wearing ‘Kick-it-out’ t-shirts will do anything to combat racism in football. Surely the answer is to take a firm stance in such instances such as the Terry - Ferdinand incident.

The decision of the FA and the police to defer their investigation into the Terry-Ferdinand incident meant that the defender was allowed to perform for England at the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine during the summer.

Terry’s participation in the finals whilst racism allegations were still against him, sent out such a poor message. Many black players interpreted the FA’s handling of the affair as such and felt that Terry’s involvement at the Euros was regarded as more important than stamping out racism.

Will black players form their own union? Only the future will tell but it’s time that those with power in the game stop trying to apportion blame for the formation of such a group. They have to wake up and address the issue; black players are feeling increasingly isolated in the modern game of football and until organisations such as the FA and PFA start having more of an impact, the racists, both on and off the pitch, will continue to get away with their vile, disgusting and degrading behaviour.