The recent and on going furor surrounding Liverpool Football Club’s handling of the Luis Suarez/Patrice Evra incident continues to illustrate the depth and breadth of racism in the UK.
The recent public letter sent by 18 prominent black and anti racist organisations to LFC has been the catalyst for further denial of the racist nature of this miserable affair.
In seeking to bring clarity to the debate I want to make a few things clear. There is no accusation that Suarez himself is a racist. He made racially derogatory and offensive remarks that are unacceptable in the modern British game.
Secondly nobody accused LFC of being a racist club. What was said is that their handling of this particular affair was extremely poor and incited further racism and that they should do something about it. Liverpool has a moral responsibility to football and the country as a whole to ensure that they set the highest standards when dealing with issues of race.
And what is being asked of them? That Suarez should apologise to Evra. He and the club are both, I believe morally compelled to do so.
In addition, that LFC make a public statement alongside others committing themselves to opposing racism and finally organise a conference on racism in football. All simple things, that would go a long way to repairing some of the damage done by LFC’s lack of leadership on this issue. Hardly a life sentence is it?
In response and reported on by the BBC, LFC have said they are committed to tackling racism.
"Liverpool FC made clear its disappointment with what happened recently at Old Trafford and both Luis Suarez and Kenny Dalglish issued apologies.”
Whilst true, LFC have consistently denied the existence of any racist element in this matter
"The player did not previously appeal the FA sanction, served his suspension and apologised to anyone he had offended”.
One assumes that the reason no appeal was made was because both Suarez and LFC accepted he was guilty. The apology issued was in reference to the failed “ hand shake” and not for using racially offensive language.
"In light of recent events, the club has met with a number of key national and local stakeholders on these issues. We are also working with Sporting Equals, an independent UK-wide charity and one of the leading experts in equality and diversity in sport to develop a strategic action plan encompassing both our staff and external stakeholders."
This sounds promising and we looked at Sporting Equals website and to our surprise we found that Dr Zafar Iqbal, 1st Team Doctor at Liverpool FC is also Sporting Equals Physical Activity Ambassador. We have written to Sporting Equals for further clarification.
We will also be requesting the names of those “national and local key stakeholders” who LFC say they are working with. Preliminary enquiries by us have not been able to establish LFC is in contact with any local black organisations in Liverpool.
"We are committed to playing our part, alongside the game's authorities and other agencies, in the fight against racism and discrimination of any sort."
Whilst we welcome this preliminary statement by Liverpool in response to our letter, their initial failure to appeal the Suarez suspension speaks volumes.
We hope in the spirit of reconciliation, and in line with LFC stated commitment to play it’s part in the fight against racism, that a full apology is issued.
Black people are reporting to me that Suarez name is now being used as a form of racial abuse. There can be no more compelling reason for LFC to reconsider their position.
It is vital that LFC are seen to be absolutely unequivocal in their opposition to racism. In this instance that requires they provide an immediate apology to Evra and acknowledge and repair the damage done by their mishandling of the whole affair.