Racism in sport, especially football, is a topic very much in discussion, John Terry’s acquittal being the most recent controversy. ‘Kick it Out’ is the leading football equality and inclusion campaign. In this interview, we talk to Richard Bates from Kick it Out about the potential of sport to bring about a social change. This is our second post in the Diversity in Sport series, discussing issues of inclusion in sport.
“Sport has the power to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela. Do you endorse this view? In your experience, how have you seen this in practice?
Sport acts as a powerful medium in bringing together people from all different communities and backgrounds. Through our work at Kick It Out, we see the role football can play as an engagement tool. The game is universally loved, and regardless of a person’s race, religion, age, gender or sexual orientation, everybody has the right to play.
Britain’s society is a diverse one. This diversity is often not reflected in Britain’s sport though. Why do you think this is the case?
Outside of the playing side, there is a huge lack of representation from minority communities across all other roles in football. There are certain barriers in place which prevent these people from progressing in the professional game and they need to be given the opportunity to prove themselves on this stage. Old attitudes and stereotypes still exist, but with examples being set by the likes of Chris Hughton, Chris Powell and Keith Curle, it gives hope to a wide pool of people looking to make their way in the game.
While sport can be a social activity that brings people together, it is not isolated from wider societal mores. As such, minority communities might be side-lined or excluded. How significant is inclusion of these communities in sport in terms of its impact on the wider society?
Sport is particularly unique in the fact that it can act as a level playing field for people from all backgrounds. It is able to remind people that whoever you are, and wherever you are from, we’re all human beings with equal rights. When you look at the Premier League and Football League, and see the multicultural make-up of the playing staff at these different clubs, it proves how much of a positive impact can be had by having a diverse set-up. This can act as a positive example to wider society.
Kick it Out’s work is on racism in football (I believe it started as ‘Kick racism out of football’). What was it that led you to focus on this specific area?
During the 70’s and 80’s, black players being racially abused by supporters, coaches, opponents and in some cases, their own team-mates, were common occurrences. As a response to this, Lord Herman Ouseley, Kick It Out Chair, alongside a group of professional footballers, including Garth Crooks and Paul Elliott, decided to launch ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football’ in 1993. As the campaign broadened its remit, it was renamed ‘Kick It Out’ in 1997. Nowadays, it challenges homophobia and antisemitism, and many other forms of discrimination.
This also brings up the point that there might be minority discrimination within minorities. For example, you might find disablism within an ethnic minority community. Have you had such experiences and how have you dealt with such complex situations?
Kick It Out is aware of these complex situations taking place in certain ethnic minority communities. Our remit focuses on the more ‘traditional’ issues as these tend to be within the confines of football.
As a higher education institution, we are quite interested in Kick it Out’s work in the classroom. Could you tell us a bit more about how you have been working on promoting diversity and inclusion through sports via teaching and learning resources?
Kick It Out has long since recognised the important role that football can play to help address issues of racism and exclusion in the classroom. The campaign recently released a free educational resource designed to accompany The Y-Word, a short film addressing issues around anti-Jewish abuse in football, and a free schools’ pack aimed at professional clubs, County FAs and community groups. The resources have been put together to assist schools in cultivating curriculum activities for use in the classroom, and look to foster community cohesion by challenging prejudiced attitudes.
The brand name of the campaign – Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football – was established in 1993 and Kick It Out established as a body in 1997. Kick It Out works throughout the football, educational and community sectors to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices and work for positive change. To find out more about Kick it Out, please visit their website – www.kickitout.org.
We have more posts coming up in the Diversity in Sport series – watch the space!