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Racism in Football

As a parent of two football-obsessed teenage sons (my eldest son is a regular at the Emirates for every Arsenal home game), and working around the issue of equality in our inherently unfair justice system, the issue of racism in football is an interesting subject.

For my generation going to football matches in the 70’s/80’s was too dangerous an activity due to the hostility shown to BAME people on the terraces. Undoubtedly there has been some progress but the problem is still there as recent events have demonstrated. But it isn’t just about a few ignorant supporters.

Over the past 6 years I have seen the Academy system from the inside, supporting my youngest son who plays for a premier league club at U14 level. It’s always been a disappointment standing on the side lines at matches and noting the dearth of BAME coaches in the system. Our football institutions have been slow to change, they need to walk the talk!

Football has had an impassioned debate around racism over the past years, way ahead of wider society, culminating, I think, in the deep levels of respect and, dare I say, shame following the death of the great Cyril Regis. The sport, or should I say business, has an opportunity to be a beacon in our society and it needs to take this opportunity with actions not just words, as Stan Collymore rightly highlights.

Finally Raheem Sterling is emerging as a great role model for young black men. He’s made mistakes but learnt from them and become a better player ,and probably person, for it.

Articulating so vividly the hypocrisy of the media in his Instagram post was a touch of maturity that showed he is a class above the highly paid columnists who make their living out of lazy opinion pieces criticising him.

He is exactly the sort of role model my two sons and many black boys like them need in what are very stressful times.

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