Comment: Roy Hodgson wasn't being racist, he simply made a joke that got lost in space

Kick It Out were too quick to jump on the bandwagon

It was an inappropriate joke. Clearly it had no place in a football dressing room – one look at Andros Townsend’s face as he emerged from the Wembley tunnel for the second half of Tuesday’s game against Poland is enough to make that plain. On the footage shown on the Football Association’s website Townsend appears puzzled, and who can blame him.

It was a moment when for once Peter Reid’s style of management might have been better suited in the home dressing room at Wembley than Roy Hodgson’s more erudite, considered approach. “Hey Smallingy – just get the f’ing ball to f’ing Townsendy, every f’ing time. OK? F’ing OK son?” Only England would not be going to Brazil were Reid in charge.

So there were Townsend and Smalling, aka the astronaut, struggling to master a piece of humour popular in Nasa circles in the 1970s during one of the most intense moments of their young careers. Humour frequently falls into the gaps between generations and this one was lost in space.

But what it was not was offensive, and what it did not need was any sort of apology from Hodgson, nor any call from anybody to set up any sort of investigation. “You cannot be offended by that,” said John Barnes, “which player is offended? Let’s hear from them and let them tell us why they’re offended.”

We have not heard from them. But we don’t need to – rather the FA needed to, and Hodgson. The offended player should have told someone from the FA, gods knows there are no shortage of them, or Hodgson, and the matter could have been explained – the offended player was a victim of his own misunderstanding. The FA even phoned all the players involved and established no one had a complaint to make. That should be the end of the affair. But that is not the way it works, and that is something that should depress anyone involved in the game, including us in the media.

It is damning of the player, or whoever within his entourage took the story to the media – what can they possibly have hoped to gain? – it is damning of the media for its reaction, it is depressing to become part of that reaction, it is depressing to have to write this. After chairman Gerg Dyke had to issue in support of Hodgson, the FA assures us the issue is gone and that none of the players have a problem with the England manager – if that is the case it shames even further whoever went public with the story in the first place.

The initial story was one of crying wolf. The wolf is still to be dealt with, still exists as a real threat, but in this instance is nowhere to be seen because it was just not there. This is not racism.  

The alacrity with which Thursday’s bandwagon was leapt on – with a speed that would have shamed even the Prime Minister – by important and influential bodies such as Kick It Out was not impressive. It does the cause of  anti-racism no good at all.

It should be acknowledged that this country’s record on combating racism is by and large a good one in recent times thanks to the work of groups like Kick It Out. There is still plenty to keep them busy. There is the lack of diversity on Dyke’s FA commission for a start, then there is the scarcity of black coaches and managers in the professional game despite the large number of black players who are and have been involved at the top end of the sport for the last 30 years. It is time to introduce the Rooney Rule – as used successfully to promote black coaches in the NFL – as nothing else has worked and an imposed change is necessary and probably overdue. That is a matter worthy of debate. This on the other hand is not an issue to waste time on. “It is not even newsworthy!” tweeted Townsend. If only.

John Terry was found by the FA to have racially abused Anton Ferdinand in 2011. That should have ended with Chelsea sacking their captain. They readily bar fans for such a serious offence. Racism of course remains a blight on the lives of some people in this country, is still a live and painful issue, but this is not a racist incident. It is, from first to last, a bad joke.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup