Race report could help to change attitudes

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The Independent Football

Campaigners are hoping that a new report, which labels football as "institutionally racist", will serve as a catalyst for change within the game.

The report, compiled by the Independent Football Commission, is not published until next week but some of its findings have already been revealed in a leak. The IFC want the Football Association, Football League and Premier League to "co-opt" more staff and board members from ethnic minorities.

The Government-backed report also calls for more work to improve the racial mix of those involved in playing, coaching and watching the game in the next three years - thereby avoiding the need for a Whitehall-appointed football "Czar".

However, it is the finding that the game is being perceived as "institutionally racist" - under the criterion used by Sir William Macpherson about the Metropolitan Police in the 1999 Stephen Lawrence inquiry - which has inevitably raised most concern.

Piara Powar, director of the anti-racism Kick It Out campaign, who has read the report, revealed that he "accepted and understood" the use of the phrase. "However, it has become so loaded that it can provoke defensive responses. We talk in terms of exclusions and a lack of adequate representation," he said. "Our view is that there is an issue of exclusion within the game, whether it relates to the representation of ethnic minorities among players, supporters or coaches, as well as the governing bodies.

"We're hoping that this report can provide a positive springboard for further change, especially where change is not already on the agenda."

Powar believes that the responsibility for these changes must be shared between the governing bodies, as well as the clubs. "The FA have their ethics and equity policy, which is the right way forward. But it is the way in which this is implemented upon which they will be judged," he added.

"The FA have to make sure they are doing everything they can about these issues so that they are providing good leadership and then we need to develop practical solutions."

The report is not entirely negative, highlighting the good work being done not only by the Kick It Out campaign but also by individual clubs, such as Southend, Oldham and Rotherham. Powar said: "The report also acknowledges that some important changes have taken place.

"Some clubs are doing very good work. While Leeds and Leicester are mentioned in the report, there is also great work being done at other clubs, like Charlton, Blackburn and Manchester United."