April 4 – Prominent figures from across European football have emphasised the crucial importance of diversity in the game.
On the second day of the #EqualGame Conference organised by UEFA and the English FA, Yaya Touré, ex-Barcelona, Manchester City and Ivory Coast, Belgium coach Roberto Martínez, Rachel Yankey, the former England women’s international, Bibiana Steinhaus, the first woman referee to officiate at games in the German Bundesliga, and Jason Roberts, CONCACAF’s director of development, all appeared on the same panel to have their say on the need to crackdown on discrimination.
Yankey was especially outspoken. “I’ve worked in grassroots football, and some of [the behaviour] is unbelievable,” she told delegates. “At the highest level, you think referees are treated badly? Go and look at grassroots football, it’s terrible. It needs to change at the top, so it helps the bottom.”
There was powerful testimony from Roberts as he reflected on his uncle Cyrille Regis’s pioneering role as a black footballer enduring racist abuse in England in the 1970s and 80s.
“He had to stand and endure that weekly,” said Roberts who went on to question the ongoing problem of a lack of opportunities in management positions for BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) candidates in the English game.
“We really need to look at decision-making and the opportunity for coaches, managers, for those leadership and administration positions,” he said, citing the fact that there were “more than 30% BAME players, but 4% in coaching and management roles across our four leagues in England. You are limiting people’s opportunities to continue their careers.”
Roberts cited the way some young English players had responded to abuse recently.
“The players now have their own media channels. They’re not waiting to speak to a reporter. I think the media hasn’t done enough and now they are looking at themselves. I think football is looking at itself. We’re all looking at ourselves.”
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