This week was supposed to be the ‘Kick it Out’ campaigns week of action. A period where clubs use their home games as a vehicle to promote the removal of discrimination from football.
It was supposed to go as smoothly as possible, as smoothly as the previous events that have gone by without incident, but also without publicity or notice.
But this time it has made headlines and people have noticed. Last Thursday, Reading striker and BBC pundit Jason Roberts decided to make a stand, he would not wear his ‘Kick it Out’ t-shirt. Many thought that this was a token gesture, nothing more than going to war armed with a pea shooter.
Sir Alex, in his press conference questioned the validity of Roberts’ actions and even made an assurance that all of his United players would be wearing theirs. Come Saturday tea-time though and the United boss was issuing another assurance, that Rio Ferdinand would be dealt with, as he had defied his manager and joined Roberts in his crusade.
This movement gained a great deal of support. Both Swansea and Wigan, as well as a number of players involved in other Premier League matches decided against wearing their t-shirts, including Rio’s brother Anton, who has been at the centre of the racism storm for the past twelve months.
They are arguing that ‘Kick it out’ is not doing enough to combat the racism problem.
For years, racism within English football was seen to be a small or even non-existent problem, ‘Kick it Out’ were praised for being one of the reasons behind this and were considered as being the at the forefront of removing racism from the game, they were consulted by UEFA and FIFA about dealing with the problem around the world.
But now that racism has reared its ugly head again, most publically through the Suarez, Terry and Serbia affairs, it has become apparent that the problem hasn’t gone away, and that some, including the ‘Kick it Out’ campaign may have been guilty of thinking it was problem solved. And this is why some feel that they are not doing enough to address the issue.
‘Kick it Out’ however cannot be held responsible for incidents of racism. They are an organisation working with the richest league in the world, yet their annual budget is only £300k, this amount doesn’t allow them to orchestrate high profile awareness drives.
As much of their funding comes from the FA, Premier League and Football League, it is understandable that they are wary of criticising their funders when it comes to the way that they deal with incidents of racism, but this also shows why some players don’t think that ‘Kick it Out’ are doing enough.
In order to become effective ‘Kick it Out’ need to become an independent body, which will enable them to pressure the sports governing bodies into taking tougher stances on those found to be guilty of racism.
How they could generate the funding required to be more effective is yet to be seen though, perhaps players or clubs could make donations? Or maybe a more indirect method of funding is required. But what this weekend’s actions have done is show that players are not happy with the way things are being done. And it has also inadvertently raised the profile of the ‘Kick it Out’ campaign, which is a good thing.