Racism and the unique power of sport – The English Experience

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This paper examines the issues of racism in European, particularly English sport, largely based on football as a case study. It comes as EU Member States develop ever closer links – via national football information points – to eliminate violence at football matches.


James Riordan, an Honorary Professor of Sports Studies at the University of Stirling, notes the role international sports competitions, along with sportspeople and ruling bodies, can play in embracing the youth of the world and in celebrating ethnic diversity, friendship and respect for other people. He highlights initiatives within British football for Study Support Centres (to help pupils with numeracy, literacy and ICT) at clubs and others such as ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football’, ‘Football in the Community’, ‘Football Unites, Racism Divides’ and ‘Show Racism the Red Card’. Other key initiatives in the UK that he welcomes include the creation of an offence of racist ‘chanting’ at football grounds in the Football Offences Act of 1991 and the establishment of a Football Task Force in the late 1990s. Nevertheless, he points out that there is still much to be done to work for greater racial equality in English football.

Professional football in Europe has become a multi-ethnic, multi-national game as top players from all over the world flock to play for Europe’s prestigious clubs but racist incidents – be they in Italy, Spain, Germany or France – have been all to common over the last couple of decades. Initiatives taken at European level include a German campaign against racism in football stadiums in 1992, an anti-racist match among professional footballers in Spain in 1997, an amateur anti-racism World Cup in Italy and UEFA’s recognition of the work of FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) in 2001.

The analysis comes as EU Member States seek to forge closer links with each other – via national football information points – in order to root out violence at football matches.

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University of Stirling Department of Sports Studies’website for published research.  

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