A MAJOR shift in the battle against racism at a grassroots level took place at the BAME Football Forum (BFF) event, At the Grass Root of Racism held at the King Power Stadium on Monday night (October 21).
Close to two hundred people from across all levels of the game came together in support of the Forum including representatives from Show Racism the Red Card, Kick It Out, Sporting Equals, National Black Crown Prosecution Association, Leicestershire and Rutland County FA, Office of the Police Crime Commissioners for Leicestershire and Leicestershire Police.
In a recent survey conducted by the BFF, over half the people asked thought that racism and discrimination in football had increased in the past five years. Three quarters said they had witnessed or experienced it in the last 12 months.
Emile Heskey, ex England International, who spoke at the event told the audience that things had not moved forward enough since he received abusive slurs and chants in European games for England.
Matt Piper, an ex Leicester player told the audience of his experiences of growing up being racially abused and bullied. He is now determined to teach and mentor the next generation of players to be the best they can be and support them through any abuse they may receive.
Ivan Liburd Chair of the BFF said: “The England game in Bulgaria set some key precedence in the way the game was handled at the highest level. We now need to take this same approach and be just as supportive at the grassroots level where abuse is more prevalent.
“My worry is that there will be yet another generation of young footballers that will have to prepare themselves to deal with the lasting effects of racism in the sport they love.”
The forum is the first of its kind across the country and is independently developed by grassroots clubs for the progression of BAME football. Their newly released Forward Plan, A Quest for Change, looks at Equality & Community, Training & Mentoring, Facility & Resource and Policy & Governance.
The forum believes for real change to manifest itself, it needs to look at the wider picture. Some of the areas that the forum are calling for changes are around improved support around the safeguarding of children that are racially abused and for the Police to take automatic action and investigate alleged racism against any child under the age of 18.