Ian Herbert: Racism - football can and must do far more yet to Kick It Out

I heard one manager describe a black player with red hair as a Jaffa Cake

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The Independent Football

Kick it Out will have to forgive me for saying that Jason Roberts has a point when he tells us he is not really predisposed to pulling on one of the organisation's white T-shirts when he runs out at Anfield this afternoon, thus contributing to the happy notion of everyone pulling together in the fight against racism.

This was the week when John Terry issued something masquerading as an apology for the disgusting words he used to Anton Ferdinand at Loftus Road 12 months ago, in a game which – by a miserable irony – marked the start of last year's white T-shirt fortnight. Chelsea have also declined the request to tell us precisely what his punishment might be, when transparency would be welcome. We've also just been told by David James that there is not even a place for anti-racism groups in football any more – as if the conduct of Terry, Liverpool's Luis Suarez or Ashley Cole, tweeting vilely about a Football Association which had the temerity to convict his team-mate, might have no consequences beyond the gilded cage of football, for those youth coaches and parents who are attempting to put children on a good path in life.

It was by pure coincidence that the Anthony Walker Foundation, a charity established in the memory of a boy who had an ice pick pitched through his head because he was black, last night launched a campaign to help eradicate racism from the schools of England and Wales, where – in figures established by the BBC under Freedom of Information legislation has revealed – 87,000 racist incidents were reported between 2007 and 2011. Wear a white T-shirt? No one could blame Roberts for screaming his fury at football's complacency into the Merseyside sky this afternoon.

It is his choice of target which is wide of the mark. Perhaps it is the work which Kick it Out has done to imprint its name on football's conscience across 19 years that leads everyone to assume that it should have this battle well in hand. Roberts wants "a movement I feel represents the issue in the way that speaks for me". Well, if a five-person organisation, operating on funding of less than £300,000 a year to cover the costs of all their activity, can constitute "a movement", then it is a pretty remarkable one.

That Kick it Out budget covers all the costs, mind. When you see a player wearing one of the T-shirts this weekend, remember that the organisation has paid for the production costs of every last one: 5,000 in all. It has even paid the postage costs to get them to the clubs.

And in the nation which will soon be home to a £1bn elite league don't imagine there are any favours from clubs, once that annual grant of £300k has been paid out from the coffers of the FA, Professional Footballers' Association and Premier League. Kick it Out will be paying for the Old Trafford room hire next week, for example, when it holds a free seminar at Manchester United's ground about anti-Semitism – part of the organisation's attempts with David Baddiel to drive out a scourge which many Jewish Tottenham fans have faced. On Thursday night, as Jason Roberts made his views known, the organisation was staging a free event at London's Birkbeck College about racist abuse on Twitter and social media – a source of much new abuse. Police, lawyers and fans were among the 100 people who turned up.

The organisation will tell you that they've felt a bit of a change in the air from the clubs as this year's One Game, One Community campaign fortnight approached; a real sense of wanting to help from Nottingham Forest, for example, as they liaised over the involvement of Jermaine Jenas, who has been a doughty fighter for their cause. Liverpool have been keen to produce, too, proactively offering Luis Enrique's services for one of the "sponsored" interviews which form part of the two weeks of action. That is promising, after the year the club have just had. But, after the 12 months we've just been through, didn't the sport actually need something rather more encouraging, initiated by clubs or players?

Would it be so utterly naïve to posit the notion of two of the leading players in the land – one black and one white, Rio Ferdinand and Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Shaun Wright-Phillips – making the telephone call to Kick it Out's shared fourth-floor office on London's Clerkenwell Road and saying: "We want to appear together and do something for you. We want to sort it out."

A share of the workload would not be unwelcome for an organisation which has taken on more, in its push into the field of homophobia, which has been a merry political dance at the best of times. Months of work on a homophobia video came to nothing in 2010 when the FA got cold feet about the content and requested more consultation, even after email invitations had been sent out for the screening at Wembley. The video was posted on the internet instead and went viral.

That project targeted both players and supporters and the grave misconception, where racism is concerned, is that uneducated fans are the problem. As the issue has bubbled away in the past year I have heard one manager affectionately describe a black player with red hair as a Jaffa Cake and several professionals talk of "coloureds", in 1970s, Mind Your Language style. You cringed for these people.

And then there was the response when Herman Ouseley, chairman of Kick it Out, challenged football in a piece for the The Guardian at the height of the Suarez affair. There were hundreds of racist and abusive emails and letters, to go with anonymous phone calls and death threats. This is what football has to contend with. The battle is not over. It will take more than five people to win it.

Invisible man Townsend gets volume just right

The Manchester United communications director, Phil Townsend, made a rare public appearance on Thursday, sharing a lectern with Sir Alex Ferguson at an event to mark the club's new commercial deal with Toshiba Medical Systems. It's a fair bet that 90 per cent of the club's fans couldn't even tell you who their communications director is – and the same went for Townsend's predecessor, Paddy Harveson.

Although someone once made a 300-piece Townsend jigsaw puzzle – currently out of stock on Amazon – there's certainly not much evidence of him intending to make a splash on Twitter. Which only goes to show that invisibility is an essential component of effective communications directing.

The Liverpool communications director, Jen Chang, has also been more invisible this week, though at a time when it would have been very useful to discuss the irrefutable evidence that he met the creator of the "Duncan Jenkins" spoof Twitter account for nearly two hours in Manchester – and that he subsequently sent that individual an email talking about his desire for an "amicable settlement," without putting down in words what the consequences of an unamicable settlement would be.

Credit to Freddie for not taking the easy path

You felt the worry in Rob Bonnett's voice when he and Andrew Flintoff talked through Flintoff's intended new boxing career on the Today programme yesterday.

"What about this boxing?" he asked him. "How are you going to manage?" "You may have lost a bit too much weight." But in Flintoff's voice we heard the hunger of a player whose ankle and shoulder injuries have deprived him of too much sport.

"I'm really enjoying being a sportsman again, getting up doing the training," he said and it was hard not to feel a pulse of admiration for one of the few individuals who has not substituted a place at the top of world cricket for a spot of punditry.

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