Events at Euro 2012 have thrown the spotlight on racism in football once more. From the outset controversy surrounded the selection of the squad, after the alleged incident between John Terry and Rio Ferdinand. Black England players were subjected to abuse during a training session in Ukraine and returned to the UK to face home-grown racial slurs aired by so called “fans” on Twitter.
Unfortunately these are not isolated events in the world of football. Gillingham FC player Mark McCammon currently alleges that he and other black players were subjected to racial discrimination by the club, and a Southampton student was arrested before the tournament for ‘tweeting’ racial slurs following the collapse of Fabrice Muamba.
Attempted explanations for the frequency of such incidences often point towards the lack of black managers at league level or the attitude of the governing body, FIFA. Who can forget the comments made by Seb Blatter, FIFA’s President, downplaying the seriousness of racism on the football pitch made in November last year? It is difficult to imagine any other organisation getting away with its leader trivialising racism in such a dismissive way.
Whatever the reasons, the clubs must do more to protect players from racial discrimination. Employers not only have a legal duty to take all reasonablee steps to avoid discrimination taking place within the workplace (including the football field) such as in the case of Rio Ferdinand or Mark McCammon but in some situations have a duty to protect employees from discrimination and/or harassment from third parties.
Perhaps clubs are so rich that they can afford to buy off discrimination claims? Or will football change?