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Thursday, October 30, 1997 Published at 18:01 GMT


Kick out football racism

Footballer Paul Ince (right) suffered racist abuse in England and Italy

Football clubs must do more to kick racism out of soccer, according to the British Culture and Sports Minister, Chris Smith.

Mr Smith joined Premier League players in Arsenal's grounds in north London on Thursday to back Kick It Out, a campaign to knock out racism at all levels of the game.

"The evil of racism has blighted football for too long. It is time to eliminate this poison from the game, for the sake of players and supporters alike," said Mr Smith.

"The launch of the Kick It Out campaign is a signal to the racist elements that believe that they can hide within the game of football."

Les Ferdinand, Michael Duberry and Rio Ferdinand represented players' support for the Commission for Racial Equality's continued efforts to stop racist abuse and discrimination in the game.

The CRE launched its Kick Racism out of Football drive in 1993 alongside the Professional Footballers' Association.

Racist taunts are becoming rare at professional matches and Kick It Out now hopes to extend this change to the amateur game.

[ image: Chris Smith MP: Racism will not be tolerated at any level]
Chris Smith MP: Racism will not be tolerated at any level
Mr Smith said that a number of positive schemes to stamp out racism at Football League clubs - including West Bromich Albion, Charlton Athletic and Sheffield United - were beginning to take shape. He praised these clubs for introducing "imaginative" schemes and urged other clubs to learn from these "positive" steps.

As well as working with schools and junior clubs, the campaign plans to promote Asian players and increase the participation of ethnic minority communities with clubs.

European football is also being targeted and an anti-racist network is to be developed across the continent.

"Throughout the 1970s and 80s football gained an unenviable reputation as the breeding ground for a number of racist organisations," said Mr Smith.

"For many years football has been accused of not taking this issue seriously. Black and Asian players and supporters still feel marginalised and vulnerable to verbal and physical assault."

Change needed at the top

Kick It Out supporters point to what they call subtler forms of racism continuing within British football.

"A quick count of the people from ethnic minorities in football clubs and in the football establishment says it all," the CRE website says.

"At one stage in 1993-94, two team managers out of 92 football clubs were black; at the start of the '94-95 season, there were none.

"There are no club chairmen from ethnic minorities either, and hardly any board members."

Joining the launch on Thursday was Bradford City FC Manager, Chris Kamara, one of the two black managers in professional football.

The CRE adds: "Things are changing.... Professional footballers, about 20% of whom are black, often become club officials when they retire from the fame, or go on to work for football authorities.

"It is just a matter of time therefore before they are better represented in the running of the game."

Theatre explores issues

Yet, it says, the lack of professional Asian players proves the need for an on-going campaign.

The launch of Kick It Out showcases a production exploring the marginalisation of Asians within the game.

The play titled "Ooh Aah Showab Khan" illustrates the ways in which the campaign's message can be put across to young people. It is currently on a tour of British schools.

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