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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 November, 2004, 11:58 GMT
Racism fight tackles a new frontier

By Mandeep Sanghera

Dwight Yorke is at the centre of a racism storm

The abuse apparently suffered by Dwight Yorke on Sunday raised the question of how much of a problem racism might be in English football.

Yorke alleges he was subjected to racist abuse while warming up on the touchline during Birmingham's match at his former club Blackburn.

The alleged incident came less than one week after the monkey chants suffered by England's black players in the recent friendly in Spain.

And a BBC Sport investigation into the issue has found that while such behaviour towards players from the stands is rare in English football there is a new frontier being tackled on the management side of the game.

A recent survey by the Commission for Racial Equality found "football's authorities and clubs are not taking racism seriously" and that "ethnic minorities are severely under-represented in the non-playing side".

Here some of English football's leading figures within their fields give their thoughts on the subject.

The manager
Keith Alexander
League Two club Lincoln boss and one of three black managers in the English professional game

The level of racism in English football is virtually non-existent compared to 20 years ago when I was playing and 10 years ago when I was managing.

Dwight Yorke has gone from one club to another and normally it would just be the boos and barracking but because of what happened last week certain people think they can get away with what they did.

In terms of managing, it is very difficult whether you are black or white. There are only 92 jobs and probably 3,000 people want them.

Lincoln City manager Keith Alexander
Alexander is one of three black managers in English football

Nine times out of 10 it is all about who you know in this game. That's been the case for 100 years and I'm sure it's going to stay the same - unfortunately.

I can sympathise but by the same token the same people who are putting the money in are the ones making the decisions.

We have got to try to get a few fairer decisions but those black players who want to be managers have to put themselves about and make sure they are known in the right circles and the right people.

Either that or it's going to take someone like me to get Lincoln in the Premiership - and that's not going to happen, is it?

I would have thought certainly with the success I have had over the last couple of years in getting us to the play-offs I would have had the sniff of another job, but that is not the case.

But is that because I am black or because those people who are choosing the jobs want who they want and there are a lot of international players and managers from abroad getting the positions?

In all walks of life if you are an ethnic minority of course you have to work harder and do better. Unfortunately, that goes without saying.

I know that shouldn't be the case but it is and we just have to do that. You are better being in the system than out of it.

Players' Chief
Gordon Taylor
Professional Footballers' Association chairman

There was talk of taking black players off the field when it was really bad years ago in England with bananas being thrown and all sorts of stuff.

That was a world where racism was quite prevalent but the players didn't want to do that, they wanted to convince supporters with their ability and that was something you had to respect.

Last week when I was in Spain I realised how much progress we had made and the Dwight Yorke incident has to be put in perspective.

There would have been a time when people would have said it was only a bit of fun and asked what they were getting sensitive about
Gordon Taylor

It was an ant compared to an elephant. But it did illustrate that we have procedures in place. Whether there is an element of copycat in it I don't know.

The good thing is when you've got a younger generation of black footballers who can't relate to what the likes of Clyde Best, John Barnes and Brendan Batson had to go through - that is illustrative of the progress we made.

There would have been a time when people would have said it was only a bit of fun and asked what they were getting sensitive about.

Our next big initiative is that we are having a big equality drive on the coaching and management side.

That is in combination with the League Managers' Association, Premier League, Football Association and Football League to make sure they give opportunities in coaching and management.

There is a lack of numbers with regard to being proportionate with the situation on the pitch.

The Executive
Brendan Batson
FA project manager and former West Brom midfielder

Anti-racism has improved enormously in England. From the bad old days of the 1970s and 1980s to when the campaign started in 1993 it has been embraced by all.

I'm not being complacent when I say how successful it has been because I know there is a lot of work to do to address other issues but, in terms of racial abuse suffered by black players, that has all but been removed.

I would like to think the Dwight Yorke occurrence is an isolated incident.

FA Project Manager Brendon Batson
Batson is a rare black face on the administration side

I believe zero tolerance is the best policy and every time it manifests itself it should be dealt with in the most severe way.

I think we have made significant steps in the fight to kick racism out of football. We have to build on those successes and look to address the other things like the lack of Asians, black managers and coaches in the game.

The other areas in football are not representative of the black players and an environment has to be created where players who wish to carry on in coaching and management feel that an equal opportunity is presented to them.

It's the same in other areas in terms of administration and the running of the game. There is still a lot of work to be done.

For those lads who have got ambitions to go into coaching and management they should get all the necessary qualifications and look to present themselves as good candidates.

If we find in years to come that we have still got this problem then we have to look at it again.

We should be proud of the success we have had to date but not think that the work has been completed.

The Agent
Sky Andrew
The first black agent in top-flight football

We are doing very well in English football to get rid of racist chanting in grounds. What happened at the Birmingham game was that opportunists saw it as being topical.

At the end of the day in our country we have done a good job and are getting better all the time. We rarely hear anything like this and it's more of a problem abroad.

We want the right people and not just because of someone's colour
Sky Andrew

It's fair to say there are very few black agents, managers and chairmen but if you conduct yourself in the right way people will look more at what you are capable of and how you conduct yourself and your business.

Once a chairman said to me he didn't really see me as a black person and what he meant was that he didn't see my colour - he saw me as the person I was. There are going to be certain people who judge others on certain things but overall it is getting better.

I would agree that what exists now is more subtle. It is not in your face.

The subtle aspect is harder to deal with. There is probably some subliminal stuff going on but it is hard to pin-point that. It is very hard to define.

But we want the right people and not just because of someone's colour. In an ideal world we would have the people who are qualified for the job and who are the best.

If they are ethnic or black they should be given the job on their merits. It isn't really right to say that just because someone is a woman, ethnic or black they should be given the job automatically.

In an ideal world what we want is a fair process where hopefully that will result in us having a mixture of people in that level of the sport.

The football fan
Paul Woodhall
Heads the anti-racism unit within the Football Supporters' Federation

The level of racism has actually gone away quite a lot over the last few years but it is still around because of the onus being put back on fans to report it.

The problem at the moment is that there needs to be a lot more liaison between clubs, stewards and police to get zero tolerance.

More clubs should adapt the zero tolerance level and that way the problem will go away.

I can see it eventually being driven out of the game. Racism isn't inherited, it is actually taught and it is important at the lower level with children to get them to accept that racism is wrong.

A lot of ethnic minorities won't go to some of the football grounds because they know there will be some racist chanting and they don't want to hear it.

It is a small minority but it depends on which grounds you go to because it is a lot worse at some places.

Black or ethnic minority players do not have a route through football where they can actually work their way to be a top manager.

They can get the coaching certificates but can they be left in charge? There seems to be the mindset: "Oh we can't have anyone who is a ethnic minority in charge of us."

It has become more subtle in terms of you apply for it but you won't get it.

Report: BBC Sport's James Munro

Race to beat the bigots
19 Nov 04 |  Internationals
Is Spanish football racist?
18 Nov 04 |  Football
Spanish press round on racists
19 Nov 04 |  Internationals
Spanish FA sorry for racism
19 Nov 04 |  Internationals

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