The Professional Footballers’ Association’s six-point action plan to deal with racism in the game has not received the wholehearted positive response the organisation may have hoped for.
Knee-jerk was one of the many reactions to their proposals, with Arsene Wenger going further labelling the ‘Rooney Rule’ called for in the PFA proposals as itself ‘a kind of racism’.
Facing mounting criticism for not doing enough to tackle the problem or racism and the threat of a breakaway organisation for black players, the PFA says it is now time for tougher penalties.
The PFA’s plan calls for:
- speeding up the process of dealing with reported racist abuse with close monitoring of any incidents
- consideration of stiffer penalties for racist abuse and to include an equality awareness programme for culprits and clubs involved
- an English form of the ‘Rooney Rule’ – introduced by American football’s National Football League in 2003 – to make sure qualified ethnic minority coaches are on interview lists for job vacancies
- the proportion of black coaches and managers to be monitored and any inequality or progress highlighted
- racial abuse to be considered gross misconduct in player and coach contracts (and therefore potentially a sackable offence)
- not losing sight of other equality issues such as gender, sexual orientation, disability, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and Asians in football.
PFA chief Gordon Taylor said football needed a united front in tackling racism, and that a separate player organisation would detract from this.
“Above all we have black former players, who have become coaches, who are looking for opportunities and see the limited chances they have been given. This is something we are continually working on,” Taylor said.
“Jason (Roberts) is round the table, so is Darren Moore, Clarke Carlisle and other trustees and noted black players and managers such as Garth Crooks, Paul Elliott, Chris Powell and Brendon Batson.
“We need all the football family on this together. Nobody said racism was easy to deal with. We saw what happened in Serbia, but we have to do our best and we need the fire in the belly of a lot of the younger players to be on board with this and making sure they understand the process, and are part of it.
“Then they can feel the sense of achievement at the end of the day in line with the progress we have made so far.”
But when the Arsenal manager was quizzed about the possibility of the ‘Rooney Rule’ finding its way into the English game, Wenger made it clear he was not a supporter.
The rule proved a success in the NFL where it was brought in to increase the number of qualified black coaches in American Football.
But Wenger said: “I [have] always been against discrimination. Is it positive or negative? What they call it in France is ‘positive discrimination’.
“I feel that no matter what job you do in life, you should just do it because you deserve to do it and you have the quality to do it.
“You have to favour access for everybody to manage in football. Just to put a quota out, for me is exactly against what sport has to be – sport is about competition and competence.
“That will have exactly the opposite effect [to] what it should have. You can say as well then, ‘why do you leave him out? He’s better than the guy in his place. [It is] just because you have a quota’.
“It is again a kind of racism and what we have all to fight for is just competence, to put people who are good – are they white, black, red, no matter what colour – just put guys who have a competence in charge, and we have to fight for that.”