Black players 'reluctant to complain'

First published in News

The head of the footballers’ union raised concerns today that black players are reluctant to complain about racism in the wake of the rows about John Terry and Luis Suarez.

Gordon Taylor said those standing up against racist abuse risked a “torrent of abuse”, particularly on social media websites.

The chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association cited Manchester United defender Patrice Evra’s complaints about Suarez - who served an eight-match ban - and the “Liverpool reaction” in defending its player against the allegations.

Mr Taylor said it had also been difficult to demonstrate that the game was imposing discipline itself when the FA had been told to “hold its horses” on the John Terry-Anton Ferdinand case while police investigate.

Speaking to MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, he said he had received abuse for speaking out about racism.

”If there is going to be such a backlash it could set back the process of complaining which is the process by which we can measure whether this is going on,” he said.

”The last thing I want after this season’s incidents is for black players to not feel comfortable with the process, that if they do make a complaint that it won’t be addressed properly.”

He said police and clubs were having to take allegations of racism more seriously, but added: “I also feel there is an element of belief among my younger black players that it’s still ‘hmm, I can make a complaint but...’.

”There’s been a worry that the Terry-Ferdinand incident hasn’t been dealt with yet, there’s been a worry about what happened with the Liverpool reaction.

”I’ve got a young generation of black players that are saying, ‘Gordon, we can’t stand for this any more’, and I’m feeling frustrated that we can’t be a bit more effective in that process.”

Mr Taylor said there was an “elephant in the room” with Chelsea captain Terry contesting a criminal charge that he racially abused QPR player Ferdinand.

”Once it became a criminal case and the FA is told to hold your horses while we do this - I’ve not been comfortable with that, because it’s been festering over the game, it’s affected so many issues,” he said.

”I just wish that football could have got on with that like the cricket people got on with the issue of spot-betting, albeit there was a criminal case against those players.

”I would have felt football’s been seen to do its job of administering discipline.

”We’ve held back but it’s been put back now until after the European Championships, so that’s made our job more difficult.”

FA chairman David Bernstein said he agreed “absolutely” with Mr Taylor, although he was careful not to comment directly on specific clubs or players.

He suggested clubs should be more “introspective” about such matters.

”Clubs do tend to act like a large family, they rally round and support each other, they do tend to draw the wagons around and this sort of ‘they all hate us’ sort of thing,” he told the committee.

”It’s something that’s prevalent in many if not most clubs. So that is the actual situation.

”Should clubs be more introspective? Yes I think they should attempt to be, most certainly.

”Having chaired a club, I know it’s quite difficult, there is a strong temptation to do everything to get a winning situation, a winning team and that includes supporting your colleagues almost right or wrong.

”So it’s a cultural thing but I think it does need looking at.”

Lord Ouseley, chairman of the anti-racism campaign Kick it Out, said football clubs need to take tougher action against players who misbehave.

”The complication is, really, the clubs have very expensive assets in players and they are reluctant to take disciplinary action from the outset,” he said.

”The clubs do not apply proper procedures as in other employment situations, they rely on the Football Association to deal with the discipline and they don’t impose as normal employers their right and responsibility to say to those players, ‘You have breached a code of conduct as an employee of this club’, and that is where the problem is.

”If clubs had a proper employment-employee relationship as in all other employment situations they would take action the moment a player misbehaves in a certain way.”

Lord Ouseley added: “We’ve got to have a situation where clubs recognise their responsibility both in terms of protecting their players from abuse but also in taking action against those players when they are in breach of contracts.”

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