Racism still a barrier on the terraces

The vast majority of Britain's ethnic minorities are being deterred from attending football matches, from Premiership to Sunday league games, because of racism among supporters, a study has claimed.

The vast majority of Britain's ethnic minorities are being deterred from attending football matches, from Premiership to Sunday league games, because of racism among supporters, a study has claimed.

A report by the Commission for Racial Equality, into discrimination in football, found that despite nearly a third of professional players now coming from ethnic minorities, less than two per cent of spectators at matches are non-whites.

The study, based on surveys of 92 professional clubs and 43 county football associations, also found widespread discrimination at management and coaching levels. Less than one per cent of off-field positions are held by ethnic minorities.

Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the CRE, said: "Football's authorities and clubs are not taking racism seriously. They are clearly not doing enough to promote equal opportunities off the pitch and remove the barriers that prevent ethnic minorities working at all levels of the sport.

"Despite efforts by clubs and organisations, racism still remains a problem on the terraces and prevents black and Asian supporters going to matches to support their teams."

The commission, which said a quarter of those clubs and organisations approached, including one Premiership club, failed to respond to its questionnaire, said the vast majority of clubs did not train their staff in equal opportunities. It has given the sport two years to improve its record.

The publication coincided with the launch of a campaign by Kick It Out, the group dedicated to eliminating racism in the British football, to encourage the participation of the Asian community.

While black players are well represented on the pitch, making up a fifth of the Premiership's 557 players, just two are Asian and four are Chinese.

Concerning supporters, the CRE study said: "The number of ethnic minority spectators attending matches is well below the number that might be expected from the proportion of ethnic minorities in the UK population, especially when considering the location of football club grounds - many are in areas of high ethnic minority populations."

A recent survey by the newspaper Eastern Eye concluded that a quarter of Asian fans have witnessed racism at English grounds.

The Kick It Out campaign hopes to build on the success of Euro 2004 in Portugal where an unprecedented number of Asian fans, emboldened by the reclaiming of the Flag of St George from the racist fringe, travelled to watch England.

The organisation, which wants to increase Asian participation at the grass roots level of the sport, has timed its 12-day campaign to coincide with Ramadan, the most important month in the Islamic calendar.

In an attempt to begin conquering ignorance of Muslim values and lifestyle, amateur leagues will be asked to postpone evening kick-off times by an hour during Ramadan to enable Muslim players to rehydrate after a day of fasting.

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