The father of England's Andros Townsend has insisted that the Kick It Out anti-racism organisation was right to seek an explanation from the Football Association about manager Roy Hodgson's half-time joke last month in which his son was referred to as "the monkey".
Hodgson will today be asked to address the issue of the joke for the first time, at a press conference coinciding with the squad announcement for England's friendlies against Chile and Germany at Wembley. Troy Townsend, speaking on the issue for the first time, told The Independent that his organisation had an "obligation to ask the question" about Hodgson telling the England players to "feed the monkey" by passing to his son in the World Cup qualifier against Poland at Wembley.
The decision to do so was not an attempt to attack Hodgson, added Townsend, who manages Kick It Out's mentoring and leadership work. "People think we are going for Roy Hodgson. We are not," he said. "If that happened at grassroots level, you would ask [for an explanation.] Why is it different with the national team?"
Kick It Out wrote to the FA chairman, Greg Dyke, seeking "to ascertain the full facts" after details of the joke – which the Tottenham player insisted had caused him no offence – were published on 16 October. The organisation said it was satisfied with the explanation it received from the FA but its pursuit of the issue led to criticism of the organisation.
Townsend snr is a leading figure in Kick It Out's attempts to overcome the racial and sexual bias in football, with the organisation's latest mentoring day aimed at women seeking a career in the game – a sell-out event at Manchester City's stadium next week. But though the 20-year-old organisation has diversified beyond race quality issues, Townsend said that it would be complacent to assume that British football had put the problem in the past.
"Racism has always been there," he said. "We get complacent because we always put it in the background. There is still some pretty horrendous stuff out there.
"It's like a revolving circle; it will go quiet for a long time, people will assume it is not here and then it's around again – not just in Britain, of course, but everywhere, as the events in Moscow [where Yaya Touré was racially abused] go to prove."
Kick It Out has ended its long-running "weeks of action" project after a high profile boycott last year by black players who felt it had not been voluble enough when Liverpool's Luis Suarez racially abused Manchester United's Patrice Evra and Chelsea's John Terry submitted Anton Ferdinand – then of Queen's Park Rangers – to the same abuse. But when the organisation responded quickly when it received a complaint about Hodgson's "feed the monkey" joke, it found itself roundly criticised for lacking a sense of humour.
Townsend said that the organisation sometimes just cannot win. "When we get a kicking it is because of a lack of understanding," he said. "A lot of people don't know what Kick It Out can do. People also don't realise the forms of discrimination we are working to eliminate; that we put on events like next week's."
Some clubs are tackling racial discrimination more seriously than others. Liverpool have recently advertised for a dedicated officer. But the game's complacency on racial and sexual discrimination was highlighted only last month when Dyke did not include any women or black and minority ethnic professionals on his initial list of appointees to the commission on how to improve the England national team. Dyke appointed Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand – but it came after one of his FA board members Heather Rabbatts and the sports and equal opportunities minister Helen Grant had severely criticised him for his initial all-white, all-male list. Kick It Out, which is part-funded by the FA, was not consulted on Ferdinand's appointment.
The under-representation of women in football remains a major issue and it was after a mentoring event at the end of last year at which only nine per cent of attendees were female, that Kick It Out decided to target women with Monday's Etihad event. The result has been a sell-out. A total of 100 women will seek 10 to 15-minute mentorship sessions with a variety of professionals within football including Manchester City communications director, Vicky Kloss, BBC journalist Jo Tongue, FA Regional Coach Development Manager, Julie Callaghan, and the Professional Footballers' Association's Simone Pound.
"In our evaluation of our work, we established that we were not helping enough women," Townsend said. "Everyone knows there are not enough women in football, across all disciplines in the profession. The response to the event has shown us how much demand there is. I can't give anyone a paying contract but there are other possibilities in the game. Our aim is to try to facilitate them."
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