The FA – Kicking anti-racism out of football
“Let’s kick racism out of football”
This is the name of the much publicised FA campaign aiming to rid football of the curse of racism, but do they really mean it?
It is a sad fact that while racism has been eradicated from many areas of British life, it remains very much a factor in British football. Not at the same levels which saw widespread monkey chants, supporters hurling bananas at their own players and even fans who did not count goals scored by black players, but it is there, hidden away in the underbelly.
The National Front may no longer recruit inside and outside football grounds, but look in any number of away ends across England, and more often than not you’ll find a St. George’s Cross with the name of the team across the middle and ‘EDL’ crudely written in marker pen in one of the corners.
Incidents involving John Terry and Luis Suarez ensured that racism within football became a major talking point, no longer debated in anti-fascist fanzines and instead reaching the front pages of the national media. The FA received a great deal of criticism for the length of the bans, with the players accused of racism barely receiving longer than a player sent off for a bad tackle. Indeed, Luis Suarez would receive a longer ban for biting an opposition player than he did following the incident with Patrice Evra.
With this in mind, you’d think that any action taken to oppose racism in British football would be fully supported by the FA. You’d think that, but it wouldn’t be true. Because the FA doesn’t actually oppose racism at all, apart from when the media demands they do. Just ask the Inter Village Firm, a hardcore group of Mangotsfield United fans.
If you haven’t heard of Mangotsfield United, you’re probably not alone. They currently play in the catchily named Southern Football League Division One South and West, a million miles away from the footballing Hollywood of the Premier League. Kindly borrowed from their Twitter feed (@InterVillageFir), here are some examples of the IVF in action:
In addition to being handy with flags and pyrotechnics, the IVF also do a lot of great work to oppose racism in all forms. They are regular attendees at anti-Nazi and anti-EDL demonstrations, with a number of anti-racist banners which they proudly display both at home and away. For everything wrong with English football, the passion and dedication in the non-league scene remains something to be proud of, and sounds like exactly the kind of thing the FA should be proudly promoting.
But that would just make far too much sense. The club was forced to make the following statement on Sunday 12th January 2014:
After receiving a number of complaints regarding the issue of smoke bombs and the displaying of flags of a political nature at The Glass Consultants UK Stadium the following statement has been issued by the board of Mangotsfield United Football Club.
The club received six separate complaints in December regarding smoke bombs and political orientated banners being displayed at the ground. Following these complaints there was a dialogue between the club and The FA. As a result of the discussions, the ground regulations have been updated to include best practice guidance as recommended by The FA.
The new regulation reads as follows:
In accordance with The FA’s best practice guide, the use of flares or smoke bombs at the ground are not permitted. Also the displaying of banners, posters or stickers that are of a political nature is not permitted at the ground.
This article is not about pyro and the use of smoke bombs, that is a story for another day (although for the record, I believe it should be legal as long as devices are held rather than thrown). The point here is that the FA believes a “political point” is being made through the opposition to racism. Fans who actively demonstrate against racism are being threatened with banning orders and fines, while those who display flags promoting a racist group have no action taken against them.
The anti-fascism flag banned by the FA
The FA is more than willing to kick up a big fuss about their stance on racism when an unpopular figure such as Terry or Suarez is involved, but when it comes to a passionate group of supporters taking action of their own at a grassroots level, well that simply won’t do.
A quick visit to the FA website and you’ll find no fewer than four adverts for their official shop, demanding visitors buy England shirts, scarves or jester hats, along with a link to buy tickets for an upcoming friendly against Denmark. You’ll also find sponsor logos for Budweiser, McDonalds, Mars, Vauxhall and Nike. What you won’t find, is any mention at all of their anti-racism campaign or news of work they have done to combat this evil of the game.
The fact is that the FA doesn’t care about racism at all. It cares about making rich people even richer and looking good in the newspapers every time a scandal emerges. Unlike the Premier League or the England team, Mangotsfield United can’t make the FA money, and therefore the FA has no need for them. Because when it comes down to it, that is the only colour the FA cares about, the colour of money.
Solidarity with the IVF!