Footballers to attend 45-minute 'equality sessions' to receive guidance on language and banter

High profile incidents involving John Terry and Luis Suarez have hit the game in recent years

Every senior player in the Premier League and Football League will be obliged to attend a session this season to receive guidance on racist and homophobic language and where banter oversteps the mark.

The Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) is organising the sessions, called the 'The Senior Player Programme on Diversity and Equality' and the union has written to the managers of all 92 clubs asking them to make sure the players attend.

The sessions will highlight what sort of language is unacceptable - even as banter in the dressing room - and encourage players to report incidents if they are either victims or witnesses of abuse.

It follows the high-profile cases during the last two seasons where Chelsea's John Terry and Liverpool's Luis Suarez both received bans for racial abuse, and new FA sanctions which carry a minimum five-match ban for a first offence of racist or homophobic abuse.

Players will also be warned that new contracts will carry clauses making discriminatory abuse a gross misconduct offence that could lead to immediate dismissal by a club.

A letter about the programme from PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor has gone out to every manager.

Taylor told Press Association Sport: "We are rolling out these courses on equality and the nature of law in this country so there is no excuse for not abiding by those laws. Letters have gone out to clubs and we need to avoid any such embarrassment again after the recent cases."

The letter from the PFA to the managers states: "The programme has been put in place to tie in with the increased sanctions around discrimination which will take effect from the start of the new season, [and] will reinforce the importance of equality and diversity issues, particularly in relation to the use of language and to prevent players falling foul of regulations and incurring bans and undue media attention.

"We are looking to arrange this session in the near future and would appreciate you ensuring players attend as a matter of priority."

The programme has been developed by the PFA in conjunction with the FA, the League Managers' Association and the Premier League. Each session will last for 45 minutes and will be delivered by two tutors, one of whom will be a former professional player.

In the sessions, players will be given scenarios where abuse occurs - either from fans or from other players - and guided as to their correct response. They will also be asked to judge what they regard as dressing room banter and told whether their views are appropriate.

As well as racist and homophobic language, players will also be warned not to use discriminatory terms referring to religion or disability.

The managers have also been sent an information pack about the sessions which highlights the need for players to act if they witness abuse.

The PFA packs states: "We want to encourage the players to make reports if they are a victim of racist or other discriminatory abuse, and to encourage team mates to come forward as witnesses if they also hear something.

"It is important that you as managers have information about the reporting process so that you can support players to make complaints after an incident.

"We are told players do not want to approach their managers about some such incidents in case they are told to ignore it."

Players should approach referees during matches and write down the facts of the incident as soon after the game as possible. They will also be told to avoid making any complaint through social media, such as Twitter.

Any incidents that happen within a club, such as on the training pitch, can be reported to the manager, team captain, coaching staff or the PFA delegate, or directly to the FA or PFA.

This is how the programme will operate:

:: Two tutors, one a former professional player, will take the 45-minute sessions.

:: Players will be told there are nine ways people can be discriminated against, including race, religion, disability, gender and sexual orientation.

:: The players will be told the procedure for reporting incidents.

:: Players will be warned not to wind up opposition players using "any reference to someone's race or colour, religion, sexuality or anything related to disability".

:: Players will be given a list of unacceptable words. "The training is not aimed at trying to reduce banter in the dressing room, but to get players to think about what they use as the basis for their jokes and banter and to avoid using discriminatory language," the PFA state in their notes to managers on the programme.

:: The programme will aim to ensure players are aware of the sanctions for discriminatory language and remind them of their responsibility to be positive role models, on and off the pitch.

:: During the session, players will be asked in small groups to come up with comments/insults which may be used within a dressing room/footballing context that might relate to race, religion, disability, sexual orientation etc. They will then be asked to judge them from 'harmless dressing room banter' up to 'deeply offensive and insulting'.

:: The final activity will see players split into groups and given various scenarios, with advice given about what their response should be. Scenarios include: English players at a match in Eastern Europe where home fans are making monkey noises; a training session where the team captain shouts: "Oy you poof, my missus could play better than you"; a French Muslim player asks for special changes to be made to the food in the players' restaurant but is uncertain about what to do.


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