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"Speaking out can make a difference" says Lord Ouseley

PICTURED: Mansfield Town's Krystian Pearce

EVEN BEFORE the new football season has begun, the first complaint has landed with Kick It Out, following an allegation of racial abuse in the friendly match between Mansfield Town and Sheffield Wednesday.

It does not matter whether it is a friendly game or an official league match, the same rules and standards apply: zero tolerance with racism and discrimination is applicable at all times.

Kick It Out were contacted by Mansfield Town regarding the incident and the organisation has offered its support to the club and the complainant, Krystian Pearce.

Krystian has made a stand against what he believes to be unfair treatment, which offers several lessons to others. Firstly, nothing will happen if you don’t do something about it.

How do you bring about change without standing up, speaking out and potentially challenging the status quo? You don’t. People will simply carry on as they were and continue believing there is nothing wrong.

This case, although in its infancy, offers another lesson. Many would-be complainants are put off coming forward because they believe speaking out won’t make a difference. Wrong.

In this instance the incident was reported to the match referee, who subsequently reported it to The Football Association (FA). It is now under investigation by the governing body, as well as Nottinghamshire Police.

While little more can be said on this case until the conclusion of proceedings, I thought this could be an opportunity to shed some light on what we do to support complainants throughout the reporting process.

You may often see us reaching out to victims, but what does this actually entail? Good question. Well, the truth is there is no set procedure. We handle it on a case-by-case basis which is tailored to the needs of each individual.

In some instances, it may just be an informal chat with the player, their team mates and club staff about the incident and its effect on them. We might also reflect on the handling of the situation and how best to deal with a similar occurrence in future.

More commonly, Kick It Out provide clarity on what is often a long-winded and complex process to achieve an outcome as in many cases players don’t know how the procedure works.

On occasion, our reporting officer has also attended hearings to offer support to those giving evidence. Sometimes the care we provide goes further. Discrimination doesn’t just affect victims; their family and friends may also suffer. We are on hand to provide help to them too, should they need it.

We don’t just look out for victims, either. On a number of occasions last season, for instance, we delivered education sessions with offenders who had been found guilty of discriminatory abuse, either by their club, The FA, or the police.

Education is a vital tool to rehabilitate and ensure people realise the consequences of their actions, and move forward as better individuals. As the English Football League season kicks off this weekend, I’ll leave you with this: don’t ignore discrimination. If you see, or are a victim of, discrimination, report it.

Remember - nothing will happen if you don’t do something about it. Speaking out WILL make a difference. And there is also support available, if you need it.

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