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Top clubs have ‘moral vacuum’, says Ouseley on racism

CAMPAIGNER: Ouseley has branded the FA "slack and weak"

LORD HERMAN Ouseley, chairman of Kick It Out (KIO), has launched a scathing attack on the football authorities and Chelsea and Liverpool for perceived collective failures in dealing with the John Terry and Luis Suárez racism incidents.

Ouseley told the Guardian that the actions of footballing authorities in the last year have been “12 months wasted in hypocrisy”.

His own organisation has not escaped criticism from others in the sport – chiefly the black footballers, like Jason Roberts, who decided to vent their frustration with KIO by refusing to wearing the October month of action T-shirts during match-day warm ups.

“Jason Roberts said we are not doing enough directly against racism and KIO has become too broad an anti-discrimination campaign,” said Ouseley. “I can accept that as a valid view and he put his case eloquently.

“If people feel we need more of a cutting edge, then we have to address that. But many players did not articulate why they were doing it and it seemed the organisation which for 19 years has been fighting racism became the one which took the criticism.”

Nevertheless, the KIO boss reserved his fire for organisations which arguably have more power than his own. “There is very little morality in football among the top clubs,” said Ouseley.

“Leadership is so important; you have to send a powerful message that racism is completely unacceptable.

“But there is a moral vacuum. The big clubs look after their players as assets. There was no bold attitude from them, to say that they would not put up with it”, he added.

In July, Terry was found “not guilty” of a racially aggravated offence against Anton Ferdinand in the courts. Yet in late September the FA charged the Chelsea defender with racial abuse – its disciplinary panel stated it not believe his defence, and cast doubts over the reliability of the evidence from Ashley Cole, who came out to support his team-mate.

Terry was banned for four matches and ordered to pay a fine of £220,000.

HYPOCRISY: Anti-racism stance has been undermined by actions taken with Terry

Ouseley said the actions and words following the verdicts from authorities have been insufficient. “The condemnations have been mealy mouthed,” said the 67-year-old.

“The FA did a good job with how they handled the independent commissions themselves – they showed that firm action is now taken when racist abuse is reported to them.

“We want all players and fans to feel confident about reporting abuse. But the FA did not say anything about the lies and distortions which came out in John Terry's and Ashley Cole's evidence. Instead the players are protected. The Premier League could have set the tone; they and the FA do a good job in community work. But on this, I have not heard anything from the Premier League.”

The unqualified support received by Suárez and Terry from then managers of Liverpool and Chelsea, Kenny Dalglish and Andre Villa-Boas, respectively, is one particular issue that grates Ouseley. Dalglish was heavily criticised for backing Liverpool players wearing T-shirts supporting Suárez, which implicated the Uruguayan was the victim in the affair.

Furthermore, before the verdict on Terry was reached in court, England manager Roy Hodgson selected the player for Euro 2012, describing the centre-back as a “warrior”, while overlooking Ferdinand’s older brother, Rio, on “footballing grounds” – reasoning which sent out a negative message on racism to black players and the wider community, thought Ouseley.

INCONSISTENT: Suárez was banned twice the number of games than Terry, and fined £180,000 less

Conversely, KIO kept their powder dry while both Suárez and Terry’s cases were being judged. Last April, when asked by The Voice about the two incidents, Ouseley said he welcomed the findings of the FA’s verdict on Suárez, but declined to directly comment on Terry. “We have to understand the full circumstances and all the factors before we can say whether the punishment is very harsh or lenient,” he said.

“But it doesn’t make sense if punishments are inconsistent.” Suárez was banned for eight games and given a £40,000 fine – a reprimand of significant difference to that of Terry’s.

Looking back, Ouseley identified implicit hypocrisy as a problem at the top. “We were observing the process, but the managers were speaking out and sticking up for Luis Suárez and John Terry,” he said.

“The FA should have asserted themselves, said they would not put up with people disrespecting the process, but the FA were very slack and weak. The whole 12 months was wasted in hypocrisy. Even now the FA has not acknowledged the hurt and pain caused to Anton Ferdinand and his family after the length of time it took.

“When Rio Ferdinand was told he was not good enough, whereas John Terry went to the Euros, that hurt the black players the most. They could see nobody speaking up for them, and the establishment seemed to be looking after its favourites”, he added.

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