Monday, 14 May 2012

Love Football Hate Racism: progress being made

"A letter was received from 10 Downing Street today acknowledging our report and the intention to have our views shared with the Department for Culture Media and Sport, you can read the full report below".

Racism in Football:  Liverpool Football Club and Impact of The Handling of Luis Suárez in Liverpool

Introduction and Main Findings
Football is a cultural and sporting phenomenon that is global in its appeal. Liverpool Football Club is a global brand that can influence both behaviors and attitudes of millions of football fans worldwide. Not only does the club have a great global influence it can influence what happens on pitches across Britain every weekend. With such great power comes great responsibility.

Our genuine concern is that in the context of increasing austerity and economy that is in decline the potential for racism on the terraces and in society in general increases.

Liverpool is a city that is home to the longest established Black[i] and Chinese community, a city with diverse multi racial communities[ii] (Costello, 2001). The city is making greater efforts to improve community cohesion and improve race equality. Statistical evidence however shows matched against the demographics of Liverpool’s black community; such communities have little political or civic influence (currently we have 2 black councillors and one Asian councillor).  As a result they do not occupy senior or strategic roles in any significant numbers in terms of their employment within both private and public sectors[iii] [iv].
There is evidence of poor performance in education for some sections of black communities, notably those who are described as Liverpool born black.  EMTAS reported that students gaining 5+ A*-G grades there was an improvement of five per cent on 2009 and Black and racial minority pupils are now only one per cent behind the overall city result, narrowing the gap by four per cent[v]. Due to the diversity of racial communities evidence and documentation is questionable. School outcomes have also led to low level entry into universities particularly locally[vi].
Black people are notably employed in the council. The council in May 2010, recorded 8577 employees of which 174 (2%) were from BAME groups and 6386 (75%) were White. In 18 of the Liverpool Council’s 22 departments, the maximum percentage of BAME employees is 2.9%, rounded up to 3% i.e. 3 BAME workers out of every hundred Council employees.

The highest percentage of BAME employees in any Council department is 6.1%, in the Children & Social Care department. Notably, there are no BAME employees at a strategic level in Corporate Services, Leadership Group, Liverpool First and Merseyside policy Unit[vii]. BAME’s tend to be represented in the arts and culture industry when working in the city.

Relations have improved between the Merseyside Police and black communities though they still feature disproportionately in rates of stop and search.  Per 1,000 of the population, Black people were stopped and searched 6.0 times more than White people in 2006/07. This rose to 7.0 times in 2009/10 when referring to the rate per 1,000 of the population. Overall, there were more arrests per 1,000 population of each BME groups (except for Chinese or Other) than for people of White ethnicity in 2009/10. Per 1,000 of the population, Black people were arrested 3.3 times more than White people, and those from the mixed ethnic group 2.3 times more. A higher percentage of those in the BME groups were sentenced to immediate custody for indictable offences than in the White group in 2010[viii].

There is a consensus in the city that although we have come a long way we are not yet at a place where racism can be consigned to the history book.     
The events that have followed the responses of Liverpool Football Club (LFC) to the findings by the FA regulatory commission that determined Luis Suárez was guilty of racially insulting the Manchester United player, Patrice Evra have collectively undermined race relations in the city of Liverpool.
LFC’s public displays of support for a player found guilty of racist abuse and his subsequent refusal to shake the hand of Evra at a recent game were actions that could be considered as inciting racial intolerance.
LFC’s failure to apologise for racism either through the club or Suárez or acknowledge communities who have come together as a consortium to assist has compounded the issues.
The city has remained largely in a defensive mode in relation to acknowledging any wrong doing. Liverpool’s civic leaders, many of whom have remained silent on these critical issues, have failed to publicly condemn LFC’s decision not to robustly and effectively challenge racism.
Despite repeated attempts LFC has failed to engage with local communities at a strategic level resisting the obvious benefits for all concerned. It prefers instead to utilise the skills and expertise of individuals nationally with no local connection as a means of circumventing local accountability. LFC sees the generic promotion of football with communities as fulfilling its commitment tackling racism in football. As such the club has decided not to engage with the authentic and credible strategic leadership offered locally and nationally by the Consortium of Liverpool National Black and Antiracist Organisations.
LFC does not seem to have any insight or understanding about why its refusal to engage with national and local leadership in favour of the local council and a national charity is both divisive and essentially undermining of local community cohesion.
Such intransigence, we believe is unacceptable. Clubs have to work in partnership with local communities not simply seek to ignore important critical voices and genuine local concern. The habit of viewing the council, as the solitary and exclusive voice for the black communities who live with the daily and on going consequences of racism must change. This must change if there is to be genuine dialogue and partnerships in effectively tackling racism in football and more generally in society
By failing to provide robust anti-racist leadership, the club has let down many of its fans, both black and white. In a city that is home to a rich cultural mix of indigenous and migrant communities from a wide variety of backgrounds, clear leadership on this issue is critical.
This should be easy: the club has a proud history and a positive role to play in shaping and leading the city's ambition to welcome all regardless of race or faith.
Key Messages and Recommendations
  1. That LFC publicly accept the findings of the FA into the Suárez case.
  2. That LFC and Suárez publicly apologize to Patrice Evra.
  3. That LFC in partnership with Liverpool and national black and racial minority organisations commit to and sponsor an international conference on the issue of eradicating racism in football.
  4. That civic leaders’ in addition to LFC sign up to a public declaration reaffirming their commitment to combating racism and promoting race equality through pro active actions.
The city of Liverpool has the oldest black community in Europe, dating back more than two and a half centuries with many present before the city's trading of slaves. It also boasts the oldest Chinese community and through its sea port welcomed visitors from far and wide that has resulted in a diverse multiracial community. Indeed it is one of the longest established multi-racial communities in the country. Race relations have historically been fraught, marked by significant events such as the 1919 riots, racial murders, and the 1981 uprisings of black and white communities over police harassment.
Things had nevertheless been improving recently with some improvements as a result of the Capital of Culture, where you now see the presence of Black employees that were until recently absent from city centre employment in the most basic of jobs. The numbers of BAME councillors has increased to 3 on the council with Labour claiming that more are being prepared, a direct result of the investment and work of Operation Black Vote’s Councillor Shadowing Scheme. The largest employer of these groups is the city council though there is evidence that they occupy the lower ranking positions and as such have very little influence in how the city is run.
Plans are in place through various routes to challenge the chronically low black youth employment in the city, the unacceptably small numbers of Black teachers and low levels in the senior management team[i], the disproportionately low numbers of local people who go onto university and those who continue to not achieve 5 A-C at GCSE level on leaving school. The live issue of underachievement and exclusion experienced by the indigenous black population who are 3rd and 4th generation, Liverpool born black people is yet to be fully acknowledged and addressed. There are pockets of success for Black communities notably in the arts sector.      
Despite the great efforts by the city to address its race issues and that of the new Labour administration, the symptoms of these circumstance help us to understand why Liverpool Football Club's handling of the Luis Suárez/Patrice Evra affair is a defining moment in the history of the city. There is deep unease about the way in which the club have handled the original incident and its aftermath, and many residents are concerned that the club's actions may encourage racism. It is thought by many in the Black community that Liverpool as a city has failed in its efforts to put in place a robust strategic leadership strategy that will adequately address this. The consequences of this failure are profound for local communities and football in general.
Key Areas of Note
Event: The issues of concern for racial equality campaigners began with the wearing of T-shirts supporting Suárez by his club mates, and culminated in Kenny Dalglish justifying the choice with local media carrying this story. Local media failed to provide an alternative to this position.
Result: Conflicted with anti-racism practice and confused the zero tolerance messages that LFC have given out in the past. This was seen by many in the city as an endorsement for a player who was found guilty of racially insulting behaviour. Fans started to wear Suárez masks and T-shirts and they become a symbol to abuse black and racial minorities locally. This negatively impacted on young people’s attitudes to dealing effectively with racism on and off the football field.
Event: Consistent denials that the use of the word “negro” was insulting and the public of Liverpool over indulged with communications in the media and the local press that supported this. Local press refused the other version from local people. LFC called on John Barnes to support the denial of racism, he was given air time on local radio, a video was aired for 2 hours by LFC showing a fan making monkey gestures. Another Black player, Glen Johnson also spoke to undermine any complaints leveled at LFC.
Result: Undermined the belief that racism occurred. A loss of confidence in black communities locally and nationwide that now became confused or felt they were conflicted about the issue.  Resulted in the creation of divides amongst communities on both sides of what was now becoming a contentious issue. Many felt that they could not speak out, constrained by being in the minority in the city, their employment in the council or fear. There was a general belief that this was the standard and expectation that black communities would not be influential or listened to and considered the norm in the city. 

Event: Oldham FC player Tom Adeyemi made an allegation that he was racially abused at the FA cup tie by a Liverpool FC fan in Anfield. He alleges he was called a Black bastard this was supported by a LFC fan.
Result: The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has said the fan will not be charged. There was "insufficient evidence" to bring criminal charges as the enhanced CCTV footage and the high proportion of witness statements tended to support the suspect's version of events. The confidence of black communities particularly in the city was lowered with a growing discontent across some sections of the city.
Event: At a match between LFC and Manchester United Suárez refused to shake the hand of Evra. Initially LFC refused to say there was any wrong doings however their sponsors, Standard Charter who are have significant influence in Africa, Asia and Middle East threatened their withdrawal unless they issued a statement.
Result: This statement neglected to make any reference to racism or an apology to Evra for any offence caused. Instead the statement was generic in its apology and generalised the issue to that of a refusal to perform a handshake.
Event:  LFC and Spanish goal keeper Pepe Reina featured in an advert for Groupama Seguros –Insurance Company that was aired in Spain. Operation Black Vote a member of the consortium contacted the company via their publicist to make an official complaint.
Result: The advert was removed as a result of OBV interventions. To date, neither Liverpool FC, nor Reina has issued a statement on this issue reinforcing the growing perception of LFC as a club that is failing to take racism seriously. As a result there has been an increasing intolerant atmosphere in the city.
Event: Numerous commentators wrote to the local press to bring some balance to the communications they were excluded. Local radio to some extent allowed an alternate view. An approach was by Teach Consultancy Ltd through a letter to LFC offering pro bono leadership support. The Anthony Walker Foundation made a statement that lessons were to be learned and offers of support were made.
Result: LFC ignored all attempts to assist them at a strategic level by organisations who notably were specifically members of Liverpool’s indigenous communities whose leadership, knowledge and expertise positioned them centrally in this discussion.
 Event: Liverpool Black Leadership Forum approached civic and political leaders to support a joint approach to LFC.
Result: Claims of private talks, not their responsibility and evidencing what they had done in challenging racism. No realization that there was a need for strategic leadership to take responsibility that was of city wide importance.

Event:  18 organisations, locally and nationally from multi- racial communities, formed the Consortium of Liverpool National Black Antiracist Organisations. The organisations signed up to a letter containing a statement of intent and 4 requests to LFC with an invitation to meet. They used the media to bring some balance to what people heard and seen in the public domain that was particularly unbalanced and biased in the city of Liverpool.
Result: LFC sent a letter back to the consortium that further denied that there was anything wrong in terms of how they led in response to the FA findings. They refused to accept that an apology for the racist actions of Suárez was required and that their failure to do so was unacceptable. Neither had they at any point communicated or acknowledged that racism was a factor that should have been publically acknowledged. LFC refused to sign up to any of the requests or meet to discuss a way forward. Blogs, twitter and Face book were awash with people purporting to be LFC fans or individuals in their own right, making derogatory statements, threats of violence and other unsavoury communications and allegations to members of consortium on LFC and other forums. Such was the vile comments Love Football Hate Racism facebook page was removed.  An online petition was set up to communicate the forums requests and win support for their cause.
Event: Another letter sent by the consortium to LFC to point out why their initial response was unsatisfactory and calling for a meeting. Liverpool’s leaders remained silent until a twitter response by MP Steve Rotheram conflicted with the earlier communication of Labour and Council Leader, Cllr Joe Anderson who had endorsed his commitment to challenge racism and encourage LFC to do so.  A letter of complaint was sent to the Labour Leader of the Opposition Dave Milliband and to MP Steve Rotheram about the latter’s advice to the public. His advice in a twitter response in relation to the Consortium was that LFC supporters should “ignore people intent on causing trouble.” Steve Rotherham, sent a letter of apology and  went on to suggest that the problem of racism in Liverpool and at the club is overstated adding that “anyone who suggests racism continues to be a problem are doing so for totally nefarious motives and are damaging the reputation of the city.”
Result: The consortium received an apology from Mr Rotherham MP in a written letter. The apology fell short in that the MP’s response failed to understand or acknowledge that racism exists in Liverpool and LFC and is at the heart of the problem.  He failed to understand that you cannot draw a line under an issue you have yet to acknowledge. The consortium felt that his comments were both deeply divisive and offensive.
The consortium felt it unhelpful at that stage to continue with the energy required to enlighten Steve, preferring to thank him for his apology and invite him to the round table discussions set up by the consortium. Here he could have the opportunity to hear why we believe his response was fundamentally mistaken in both his analysis and conclusion. He refused this offer giving no reason.
Event: LFC refused to come to the round table advising us that they would listen and work with others notably Sporting Equals, who have no links, lived experience or knowledge of the city and those already invited to the roundtable the consortium had organised. In addition they stated that they would look to Liverpool City Council for leadership on the issues we raised. We noted to LFC that to date LFC had not worked with local communities at a strategic level it had always been at grass root levels which in our view limits the capacity of meaningful engagement at a leadership level.
Result: We responded by outlining what is considered to be good anti racist practice relating to how LFC could work with local communities at both a grass roots and a strategic level. We noted to them that the Council is in our view an important partner but their involvement cannot be at the expense of both the active involvement and effective partnerships with local communities. The council understood this and have endorsed this by meeting with the consortium and, signing up to points 3 and 4 of the statement of intent. They also give their commitment to sponsor the request for an international conference and leading appropriately and in the spirit of respectful community anti racist engagement.
Event: A round table event took place organised by the consortium, which included religious leaders, leaders of the council a Black city councillor and representatives from black and white communities locally and nationally. It was agreed that a joint statement would be sent to LFC to encourage them to engage with the consortium and the attendees of the roundtable. The purpose being to work through the requests within the statement of intent and concerns flagged up in communications and at the round table. We are waiting for confirmation that the council are signing up to this.
Result: Pending.
Tackling racism in football should result in effective and specifically anti racist community strategies being developed in partnership with local black and ethnic minority communities that celebrate racial diversity of both local clubs and the cities in which they are based.
Generic football sports development promotion and training is to be welcomed. It cannot though substitute for a clear strategy and campaign that effectively educates on the issue of why racism is wrong and celebrates the diverse contribution black communities’ make to local clubs and cities.
Football is uniquely placed as the nation’s most treasured sport to make a real and substantive difference in contributing to the general education and leadership alongside and in partnership with other local stakeholders in challenging racism and equality for all.
3rd April  2012.
Report Authors: Gloria Hyatt MBE and Lee Jasper
Consortium of Liverpool National Black and Antiracist Organisations

To Contact:
Tele: 0151 726 0903 for Gloria Hyatt or 07984181797 for Lee Jasper

[i] The term ‘black’ is a political term. It refers to African, Asian, Caribbean and other ethnic minorities.
[ii] Costello R (2001) Black Liverpool. The Early History of Britain’s Oldest Black Community 1730-1918. Picton Press: Liverpool

[iii] Liverpool Council website (2010) Workforce Ethnicity data February 2010
[iv] Race For Opportunity (2008)  Race To The Top: The Place for Ethnic Minority Groups In The UK Workforce
[vi] Joanne Moore & Felicity Dunworth January 2011 Review of Evidence from    Aimhigher Area Partnerships of the Impact of  Aimhigher

[vii] Liverpool Council website (2010) Workforce Ethnicity data February 2010
[viii] "Statistics on Race & the Criminal Justice System 2010 and A ministry of Justice publication of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 (Published October 2011)