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Anti-racism activists condemn FA’s ‘weak’ proposals

POLES APART: FA chairman David Bernstein, left, and Peter Herbert

ACTIVISTS WANTING to clamp down on racism in football have criticised the Football Association for its proposals to tackle racist behaviour in the game.

The sport’s European governing body, Uefa, has recommended a 10-game ban for any player found guilty of racism, but the FA’s critics claim England’s national body is taking a “weak” stance by voting to implement a minimum five-match ban.

Peter Herbert, a human rights barrister and former chair of the Met’s Hate Crime forum, said: “The FA Board despite its supposed commitment to combating racism has shown it has learnt nothing over the last two years and has once again failed even to meet the standards proposed by Uefa.

“We call upon the Chair of the FA to consider his position forthwith or to at least explain publicly why such a derisory penalty is appropriate as a minimum.

“It is this attitude that explains why Lord Ouseley felt it necessary to resign from the FA Advisory Board late last year,” added Herbert, who currently chairs the Society of Black Lawyers (SBL).

Recently, the outgoing FA chairman, David Bernstein, said: “We don't have to follow Uefa. Ours is a very detailed and thought-out proposal.

“It is not likely to be exactly in line with Uefa's. Ours will have a minimum but it will have a clear acceleration from that minimum. We may well yet go beyond the 10 [game ban for racism].”

However, critics, like Herbert, have taken issue with how the FA differentiates the football field to other professional environments.

“The FA seems to forget that the football pitch and grounds are the working environment for players and therefore should be treated as such”, read a statement issued by SBL.

“If an FA employee were to utter racial or anti Semitic abuse the FA knows that they must regard that as gross misconduct and that even a first offence could lead to a final written warning or summary dismissal.”

RACIALLY ABUSED: Milan's Kevin Prince Boateng has pressurised authorities to do more against racism

Poet and political activist David Neita added: “The weak sanctions proposal is a slap in the face to all black and minority, players, coaches and managers who contribute so much to the game in the UK and around the world.

“This type of institutional racism by the FA explains why we do not feel welcome or protected when we watch or play the beautiful game.”

Talking last week on racism in football and those governing the game, former Arsenal defender Sol Campbell told The Voice: “It’s just people totally out of touch, and not looking or caring about the situation, and not respecting it either.

“I think racism in football is definitely better than before, but there’s still a long way to go.

“The lower the leagues you go down, to the grassroots, it’s more prevalent… all of which [the FA] has to address,” he added.

Last year, this newspaper called on the FA to encourage more black managers to enter the game by implementing a law equivalent to the “Rooney Rule” and for clubs to face point deductions if their fans or players were found guilty of racism.

Neither measure was considered as the FA voted today on anti-racism measures during its annual general meeting at Wembley, which confirmed a minimum five-match ban for racism.

Before the vote was cast, Lord Ouseley, the chair of Kick It Out, also criticised the FA’s proposed measures concerning player bans.

“We will look stupid if Uefa go with 10 and we go with five”, he said.

“It will not add any credibility to the FA's stance that it has zero tolerance on this matter. It’s very important they build credibility and send out a very confident message that will make people feel they can complain and something will be done”, he added.

Pressure to counter racism with more meaningful measures has been applied by former Tottenham player Kevin Prince Boateng, who currently plays for AC Milan.

Last month, Boateng spoke at the UN about the problems of racism in the sport, and Fifa president has also met the player, who was racially abused by Italian fans during a friendly match at the beginning of this year.

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