Discrimination in Football - 11 April 2019
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12.53 Uhr

Die parlamentarische Unterstaatssektretärin für Digitales, Kultur, Medien und Sport (Mims Davies): Mit Ihrer Erlaubnis Mr. Speaker, werde ich eine Erklärung abgeben zur Diskriminierung im Fußball.

Die Regierung ist besorgt über den jüngsten Anstieg an rassistischen Beschimpfungen im Fußball, die alles, was wir an unserem Nationalsport lieben, zu überschatten drohen. Am letzten Wochenende sagte die English Football League, dass sie "traurig, enttäuscht und wütend" sei, nachdem ein Wochenende voller Spiele durch vier verschiedene Vorfälle von mutmaßlichem Rassismus gegen Spieler verschandelt worden war. Zur gleichen Zeit veröffentlichte Wilfried Zaha von Crystal Palace in der Premier League einen Online-Tweet, der ihn "einen springenden Affen" nannte. Das passierte alles an genau dem Wochenende, an dem die neue "Kein-Raum-für Rassismus-Kampagne" der Premier League auf Spielfeldern im ganzen Land zu sehen war.

Ende des letzten Jahres passierte das Undenkbare - während des Nord-London-Derbys wurde eine Bananenschale in die Richtung eines Spielers auf das Spielfeld geworfen. Zur selben Zeit sahen wir die Beschimpfungen, die Manchester Citys Stürmer Raheem Sterling in Stamford Bridge erlitt. Wir waren alle Zeugen bei den beängstigenden Szenen von Rassismus, die gegen mehrere von unseren für England spielende Fußballern in Montenegro gerichtet waren. Homophobe und antisemitische Sprechchöre kamen sowohl hier, als auch im Ausland in letzter Zeit häufig vor. Englischer Fußball wird auf der ganzen Welt für seine Aufregung und Leidenschaft verehrt. Kein anderer Sport und kein anderes Land öffnet seine Türen so weit und umarmt so viele verschiedenen Nationalitäten. Wir können einfach nicht Millionen von Menschen haben, insbesondere unsere jungen Leute, die einstimmen oder direkte Zeugen werden bei dieser Art widerwärtiger Beschimpfung, die sich letzthin gezeigt hat - Beschimpfungen gegen unsere Spieler und unsere Funktionäre durch gegnerische Fans.

Wilfried Zaha, Raheem Sterling und Danny Rose verdienen unseren Respekt dafür, dass sie ihre Meinung äußern über die Schmähungen, die jetzt stattfinden, aber im Grunde genommen verdienen sie unsere Unterstützung. Sie brauchen klare Beweise dafür, dass Nulltoleranz dieses Verhaltens genau das bedeutet. Seien es Spieler, Manager oder Unterstützer - ob sie Spieler oder Betreuer sind - niemand, der zu einem Spiel geht, sollte irgendeine Art von Diskriminierung dulden müssen. Wir haben die Aufforderung des Fußballverbandes an die UEFA begrüßt, infolge der Ereignisse in Montenegro strenge und schnelle Maßnahmen zu ergreifen. Aber, wenn dieses Land dem Rest der Welt zeigen will, das dieses Verhalten nicht tolerierbar ist, müssen wir sicherstellen, dass wir jegliche Bemühung unternehmen, diskriminierendes Verhalten zu Hause zu bekämpfen.

Ich möchte festhalten, dass viele unserer Vereine fantastische Arbeit leisten und sich der Herausforderung durch Rassismus und Intoleranz stellen. Es muss gesagt werden, dass die allermeisten Fußballfans sich untadelig benehmen und eine fantastische Atmosphäre schaffen, was ein Hauptteil des Erlebnisses ist, Fußball im Stadion mitzuerleben. Rassismus ist nicht durch Fußball entstanden, aber traurigerweise wird er von gewissen Individuen und Gruppen benutzt, um Hass zu verbreiten. Dies geht bis zu den untersten Klassen, wo 'Kick It Out' über eine Zunahme rassistischer Zwischenfälle auch auf diesem Niveau berichtet. Es kann nicht richtig sein, dass Vereine bestraft werden, weil Spieler handeln und vom Spielfeld gehen, wenn sie rassistisch beschimpft werden. Es ist lebenswichtig, dass die Spieler unterstützt werden. Diese Art von Strafe sendet das falsche Signal. Die FA muss überprüfen, ob ihre derzeitigen Regeln und die Leitlinien die sie den Vereinen gibt, für den Gebrauch in diesen Situationen wirksam sind. Hier einen Riegel vorzuschieben ist eine Herausforderung, die alle angeht, alle Fans, alle Vereine und alle Fussballagenturen, auf jeder Ebene. Die Regierung ist entschlossen, zur Bekämpfung dieses Problems beizutragen. Am 25. Februar, brachte ich viele der verschiedenen Verwaltungsleute, Werbeagenturen, Fanclubvertreter, Spieler, Funktionäre und Organisationen zu einem Gipfeltreffen zusammen, um diese Angelegenheit zu diskutieren und gemeinsam zu entscheiden, welche Schritte sie unternehmen müssen, um zum Ausmerzen dieses Verhaltens beizutragen. Auf diesem Gipfel wurde vereinbart, dass einige dieser Felder weitergehend untersucht werden müssen.

Es gab sechs Anfangsfelder: Erstens, es gilt zu überprüfen, ob die derzeitigen Sanktionsmöglichkeiten im Fußball weit genug gehen, und falls nicht, was mehr getan werden muss, um abschreckend auf diese Art von Verhalten zu wirken. Zweitens, es muss sichergestellt werden, dass die Partnerschaft zwischen den Fußballveranstaltern und der Polizei eng genug ist, um die Identifizierung und Sanktionierung von Angreifern bei Spielen zu verbessern. Drittens, wir müssen uns fragen, ob wir den Ordnungskräften genügend Unterstützung geben, und ob wir ihre Fähigkeit, mit Diskriminierung umzugehen in der gesamten Liga dauerhaft verbessern können. Viertens, es muss geprüft werden, ob der Fußball den Infomationsfluss bei der Berichterstattung über Vorfälle auf dem Spielfeld verbessern und die Spieler unterstützen kann. Fünftens, Wir müssen klären, wie wir die Bemühungen verdoppeln können, um sicherzustellen, dass Spielleitung, Maßnahmen der Aufseher, Trainer und Betreuungsmannschaft vollkommen in der Lage sind, ihrer Verantwortung nachzukommen, eine offenes und inklusives Sportumfeld zu erhalten. Und zum Schluss: Wir brauchen Initiativen, die dazu beitragen, die Anzahl der Menschen mit dem Hintergrund schwarzer und ethnischer Minderheiten in den Fussballberufen jenseits der Spieler zu erhöhen, wobei Transparenz und Chancen im Rekrutierungsverfahren absolut zentral sind.

Die Regierung wird mit diesen Schlüsselgruppen in den Feldern, die ich gerade beschrieben habe, klare, handfeste Maßnahmen herausarbeiten. Meine Absicht ist, diese in Partnerschaft mit dem Fußball vor dem Ende des Sommer bekannt zu geben. Falls wir in der Lage sind, sie früher zu liefern, umso besser. Ich will die Veränderung für die nächste Saison bereit haben.

Die fortlaufende regierungsübergreifende Sportstrategie "Sportliche Zukunft: Eine neue Strategie für eine aktive Nation" soll sicherstellen, dass der Zugang zum Sport für alle gleich ist. Es ist von entscheidender Bedeutung, dass die Atmosphäre und die Umgebung, in der Sport und körperliche Aktivität in unseren Gemeinden stattfinden, ob auf der untersten oder oberste Ebene, sicher und unterstützend sind und frei von Diskriminierung und Intoleranz. Die Erfahrungen der Spieler, des Personals und der Fans werden sowohl bei Heimspielen als auch bei Auswärtsspielen den letztlichen Nachweis für den Erfolg in diesem Bereich bringen. Ich bin zuversichtlich, dass das Verlangen da ist, diese Herausforderung anzunehmen. Durch die partnerschaftliche Zusammenarbeit werden wir diesen beunruhigenden und hässlichen jüngsten Trend des Rassismus in unserem schönen Spiel unterdrücken.

13.01 Uhr

Tom Watson (West Bromwich East) (Lab): Mr.Speaker, es ist eine Freude zu sehen, dass Sie fröhlich und ruhig bleiben, obwohl wir erst halbwegs mit den Verhandlungen durch sind.

Ich spreche der Ministerin mein Lob dafür aus, dass sie diese Erklärung abgegeben hat, und ich danke ihr, dass ich sie im Voraus sehen konnte. Ich bin sicher, dass ich für beide Seiten dieses Hauses spreche, wenn ich sage, dass wir ihr persönliches Engagement in der Bekämpfung der Diskriminierung im Sport in allen ihren Formen wertschätzen. Ich stimme zu, dass die große Mehrheit der Fußballfans Rassismus, Homophobie, Sektierertum und Bigotterie als die hässliche Seite dieses schönen Spiels ansehen. Fast keine Woche vergeht, ohne ein Beispiel von Diskriminierung.

Wir waren alle über den krassen Rassismus während des Spiels gegen Montenegro im letzten Monat schockiert. Danny Rose nach diesem Spiel sagen zu hören, dass er es kaum erwarten kann, dem Fußball wegen des Rassismus den Rücken zu kehren, ist zutiefst deprimierend, aber leider nicht überraschend. Wenn junge Spieler immer wieder beschimpft werden, wer kann sie für den Wunsch wegzugehen anklagen? Der Mut, der von diesen Spielern gezeigt wird ist vorbildlich, aber sie sollten nicht mutig sein müssen, wenn sie nur versuchen, ihre Arbeit zu machen. Ich stimme der Ministerin zu, wenn sie sagt, dass Spieler niemals dafür bestraft werden sollten, wenn sie nach einer rassistischen Beschimpfung das Feld verlassen, und ich war enttäuscht zu hören, dass der Manager von Wythenshawe Town, James Kinsey, dafür sanktioniert wurde, dass er seine Mannschaft nach dem mutmaßlichen Rassismus eines Linienrichters von Feld genommen hat.

Ich habe einige Vorschläge für die Ministerin, um dazu beizutragen die Bigotterie zu bekämpfen, sobald sie ihr Haupt erhebt. Erstens; Ordnungskräfte können enger mit der Polizei zusammenarbeiten um Straftäter zu identifizieren, früher zu intervenieren und gute Beweise zu sichern, um Verhaftungen und Anklagen einfacher zu machen. Das Justizministerium könnte die Staatsanwaltschaft dazu ermutigen, der Fußball-Hassrede höhere Priorität einzuräumen und härtere Strafen zu verhängen. Die Regierung könnte die Unterstützung für Ausbildungsprogramme erhöhen, wie diejenigen, die von 'Show Racism the Red Card' und 'Kick It Out' durchgeführt werden, beide haben als Ergebnis der zentralen Regierungs-Kürzungen Kürzungen der kommunalen Regierung zu verzeichnen. Seien wir uns auch bewusst, dass die extreme Rechte versucht, den Fußball durch solche Gruppen wie die Football Lads Alliance zu infiltrieren, die vor nur ein paar Wochen durch London marschierten, als einige ihrer Mitglieder gesehen wurden, wie sie den Nazigruß ausführten.

Wir sollten uns ferner bewusst sein, dass das Problem nicht nur auf dem Feld und in den Quartieren ist, sondern auch Online und in den Medien. Die Ministerin erwähnte Wilfried Zaha vom Crystal Palace, der einige der entsetzlichen rassistischen Tweets verörffentlichte. Angesichts dessen, dass so viele der rassistischen Beschimpfungen gegen Spieler online erfolgen: Wird die Ministerin explizit Hassverbrechen gegen Sportler in die Online-Konsultationen über schädliche Wirkungen einbeziehen?

Raheem Sterling, in meinen Augen ein Held, hat die Art und Weise angeprangert, in der die Medienschilderungen den Rassismus befeuern, insbesondere in dieser herabsetzenden Art, in der ein junger schwarzer Spieler behandelt wurde, weil er ein Haus für seine Mutter kaufte, verglichen mit einem weißen Spieler, der das gleiche tat. Stimmt die Ministerin zu, dass es ein Problem gibt und dass einige Nachrichtenagenturen mehr Verantwortung übernehmen müssen?

Es ist nicht nur Rassismus. Andere Arten der Bigotterie, wie Homophobie und Sektierertum, verseuchen das Spiel. Das Schottische Parlament hat sich geeinigt, seit 2012 vierzehn Millionen Pfund zuzusagen, um das Sektierertum auf den Rängen zu bekämpfen. Kann die Ministerin hier für den englischen Fußball gleichziehen? Solche Kampagnen wie 'Fußball gegen Homophobie" leisten großartige Arbeit, aber sechs von 10 LGTB-Unterstützern sagen, sie waren Zeuge homophober Beleidigungen.

Die Ministerin hat recht, dass die Fans in ihrer großen Mehrheit Diskriminierungen jeglicher Art verabscheuen. Eine kleine Anzahl von Schlägern, die diesen abscheulichen Fanatismus verbreiten, ruinieren den Fußball für die Spieler und Millionen von Fans, die das Spiel lieben. Wir sind uns in diesem Haus nicht immer einig, aber hierbei sind wir absolut einer Meinung. Diskriminierung jeglicher Art hat im Fußball keinen Platz. Ich und meine Mannschaft werden alles tun, was wir können, und mit ihr und ihrer Mannschaft zusammen arbeiten, um es auszutreiben.

Mims Davies: Ich danke dem ehrenwerten Gentleman für seinen Ton und seine kollegiale Herangehensweise an diese Angelegenheit. Es ist richtig, dass wir bei diesem Problem von Intoleranz, ob es im Sport passiert oder in unseren Gemeinden, zusammenstehen und zusammenarbeiten. Fußball kann und darf nicht als Mäntelchen für Rassismus und Intoleranz verwendet werden, und es ist traurig, dass sich Spieler entschieden, vom Spielfeld zu gehen, weil sie einfach genug hatten. Sie haben meinen Beifall. Sie behalten sich das Recht vor, auf dem Platz zu bleiben und ihre Arbeit zu machen und das Spiel zu genießen, und sie behalten sich das Recht vor zu gehen und zu tun, was sie für richtig halten. Wir sollten willens sein, die hässliche Seite dieses schönen Spiels zu bekämpfen, wie der ehrenwerte Gentleman es beschreibt.

Abgeordnete von beiden Seiten dieses Hauses werden die Reaktion von Danny Rose gehört haben, die herzzereißend war. Wir müssen heutzutage den Mut der Spieler unterstützen, ihre Arbeit zu machen und ihre Meinung zu sagen, aber sie sollten sich nicht gezwungen fühlen, es zu tun. Es ist richtig, dass die Spieler Maßnahmen ergreifen, und wir arbeiten mit der Polizei daran, ihre Unterstützung sicherzustellen. Die britische Football Policing Unit [Fußball-Überwachungs-Einheit] wird zusammen mit dem Innenministerium weiterhin an dem Thema Hassverbrechen und Zunahme der Rechtsextremen im Fußball, die zusammenkommen, um Intoleranz und Angst in unseren Gemeinden zu verbreiten, arbeiten. Es ist richtig, dass wir hierfür das Weißbuch über Online-Schädigungen benutzen und der Staatssekretär hat soeben gesagt, dass es auch Belästigung umfassen wird. Es ist richtig, dass Sportstars und andere an der Front durch diesen Prozess unterstützt werden können.

Lassen Sie uns das stoppen. Lassen Sie uns dabei zusammenstehen. Jeder muss hierbei auf der richtigen Seite sein und es öffentlich machen. Lassen Sie uns 'Show Racism the Red Card' und 'Kick It Out' unterstützen. Die Menschen sollten die App benutzen und an ihre Vereine berichten. Die Leute auf der Tribüne wissen, wer diese Leute sind, und wir müssen sicherstellen, dass sie dies nicht in unserem Namen tun, in Namen unserer Vereine oder im Namen des Fußballs.

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): Ich war entsetzt, Danny Rose sagen zu hören, dass er nicht erwarten könne seine Karriere als professioneller Fußballer zu beenden. Er ist eine Tottenham-Legende, weil er bei seinem Debüt das Gewinnertor mit einem atemberaubenden Volley im Londoner Nordderby erzielte. Er sollte als Fußballer gepriesen werden und darf nicht durch rassistische Beschimpfungen für vogelfrei erklärt werden. Wir müssen in eine Lage kommen, in der diejenigen, die rassistische Beschimpfungen bei Fußballspielen ausstoßen, identifiziert, rausgeworfen und für ihr Verbrechen bestraft werden, und in der die guten Fans, die nicht wollen, dass das passiert, nicht als Ergebnis des rassistischen Verhaltens der schlechten Fans bestraft werden.

Mims Davies: Ich danke meinem ehrenwerten Freund dafür, dass er sich für die guten Fans einsetzt. Es gibt viele von ihnen, aber das schlechte Benehmen schert alle über einen üblen Kamm. Wir müssen die Menschen unterstützen, die das Richtige machen.

Gavin Newlands (Paisley und Renfrewshire North) (SNP): Kann ich den Konsens zurückbringen und der Ministerin danken, dass sie mich ihre Erklärung vorab sehen ließ. Ich schließe mich den Kommentaren der Ministerin und des Franktionssprechers der Labourpartei an, und es passiert nicht oft, dass ich das sagen kann.

Die jüngsten bekannten Vorfälle von Rassismus schlagen der fantastischen Arbeit, die Gruppen wie "Show Racism the Red Card" und "Kick It Out" im Laufe der Jahre geleistet haben, ins Gesicht. Traurigerweise wird jedoch, obwohl der Fußball in England auf jeden Fall in Geld schwimmt, nur ein relativ kleiner Betrag von dem Spiel für solche Initiativen ausgegeben. Ich begrüße sehr den Tonfall der Ministerin und die Maßnahmen, die sie vorgestellt hat. Ich denke, wir können alle zustimmen, dass es für Fußballorganisationen und Spitzenvereine an der Zeit ist, die Angelegenheit ernster zu nehmen und angemessen in Ressourcen zu investieren, und nicht nur investieren, sondern ordentliche Politik- und Disziplinarentscheidungen zu treffen. Das Beispiel von James Kinsey, auf das sich die Ministerin und der Schattenminister bezogen, der diszipliniert wurde, weil er seine Mannschaft in Folge einer rassistischen Beschimpfung vom Feld nahm, ist beschämend. Ich lobe die Reaktion von solchen Spielern wie Raheem Sterling und Danny Rose auf ihre Beleidigungen, aber sie müssen von solchen Körperschaften wie der UEFA besser unterstützt werden, die allzu oft nur leichte Geldstrafen verhängen, die sich im modernen Spiel auf ein Almosen belaufen.

Wie der Schattenminister des Landes ausführte, hat die schottische Regierung seit 2012 14 Millionen Pfund für die Unterstützung von anti-sektiererischer Erziehung in Schulen und Gefängnissen, an Arbeitsplätzen und in Gemeinden investiert. Stimmt die Ministerin zu, dass Wissensbildung eins der besten Mittel zur Bekämpfung der Ignoranz ist, und damit Teil der Lösung sein muss? Does she also agree that it is important to increase public awareness of the options open to fans to report racist incidents? The fact that less than half of all fans are aware of the Kick It Out smartphone app is disappointing to say the least.

Finally, the lower leagues and the grassroots take their example from the top-level game. It is simply not good enough in this day and age that only 4% of coaching and management roles across the top four leagues in England are held by black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals. Does the Minister agree that reducing discrimination in the boardrooms and on the training grounds would go a long way towards changing wider attitudes in society?

Mims Davies: I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising important points about the ability to report with confidence through the Kick It Out app and about the education piece, which is vital. We want our football clubs across the land to be welcoming, diverse and representative of the communities they serve. They should absolutely be tolerant places where people want to be, not places where they feel they have to speak out about behaviours that are not acceptable, whether in the pub or the wider community. We must work together as fellow sports fans and do our level best to ensure that football is welcoming at every level.

Greg Hands (Chelsea and Fulham) (Con): May I commend the approach taken by the two premiership clubs in my constituency? Fulham has had a long tradition as a pioneer in combating racism in football. Obviously, Chelsea has had more trouble over the years, but the recent instance in December with Raheem Sterling, to which my hon. Friend the referred, led to tough action—led personally by the chairman of the club, Bruce Buck—against four supporters. Does she agree that clubs such as Chelsea need to keep up the pressure on these abhorrent fans and ensure that racism in football is stamped out entirely in the coming days?

Mims Davies: I thank my right hon. Friend for raising the good work done in the community. I have met with Fulham, been to its training ground and seen the work it does in the community, and have also met with Chelsea about particular issues. The pride in a football club and the badge can be used so positively, and we must harness that.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): This year I had the pleasure of judging the football community trust club of the year awards and was able to read the testimonies of many football clubs and see how much work is done ​at those clubs to tackle racism in our communities. Football as an institution probably does more than any other. Does the Minister agree that if we are to show leadership as politicians, we must put our own houses in order and set the highest standards for membership of our organisations when it comes to Islamophobia and antisemitic behaviour?

Mims Davies: I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that event on the terrace here in the House of Commons, which showed how much good work is done in clubs across the land. It is absolutely right that we do not lose sight of the positive things happening in our communities and, above all, that we are not afraid of standing up to intolerance, because frankly that does no one any good.

Julia Lopez (Hornchurch and Upminster) (Con): I recently attended my first West Ham game at the London stadium. It has an amazing family atmosphere, and I spoke to the foundation about what it is doing to support the Kick It Out campaign. Does my hon. Friend agree that football matches have a special ability to bring together people of all ages and backgrounds, and that racist language and abuse must never be allowed to undermine that by normalising division in the eyes of young people or making aspiring players feel excluded from sharing the joy of the game?

Mims Davies: I thank my hon. Friend for raising that. I think that football has come an incredibly long way from where we were in the ’80s, but frankly that is not good enough. Football is a family game and is incredibly welcoming, but small pockets of people continue to use it as a cloak—although it is no disguise, frankly—for intolerance. They should know better. They should look around and see that it is they who have got it wrong.

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab): I and the vast majority of Newcastle United fans condemn utterly the racist abuse that Zaha received after the Crystal Palace game on Saturday. I was at the game and there was certainly no abuse in the Gallowgate end, where I was. That would not have been the case 30 or 40 years ago, when I would avoid St James’ Park because of the racists there, but the club, football institutions and fans came together to kick the racists out. That has not happened in certain European countries, which are frankly still in the dark ages, so will the Minister look at taking UEFA to the European Court of Human Rights? Footballers are working when they are playing the beautiful game, and they have a right to work in an atmosphere where abuse is absolutely not tolerated.

Mims Davies: I thank the hon. Lady, who always highlights the beauty of her football club. I intend to meet UEFA and FIFA in due course. These international bodies have a chance to work with us and use their global standing to make change. No one is going wait any longer.

Mike Wood (Dudley South) (Con): West Bromwich Albion pioneered the fight against racism in football in the 1970s with club legends such as Cyrille Regis, Brendon Batson and Laurie Cunningham. Will the Minister support police in the west midlands and across the country in bringing charges against those who subject players, fans and officials to racist abuse from the stands?

​ Mims Davies: It is absolutely right that across Government, we stand fully beside the police if they have the evidence and back them up. I have met with West Midlands police about the forthcoming Commonwealth games and its commitment to ensure that the community is well policed and looked after, and this issue is surely part of that.

Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab): As you know, Mr Speaker, I am a lifelong Man City fan and a season ticket holder, so I am extraordinarily proud of what Raheem Sterling does on the pitch and his action on anti-racism off it. My wife and I are also fans of Wythenshawe Town. In January, the manager James Kinsey took the players off the pitch when the assistant referee was clearly racist to one of our players. That accusation against the assistant referee was subsequently proven and he faces a charge of disrepute, yet the club and the manager still face charges for leading the players off the pitch. Does the Minister agree that the FA needs to show more consistency and leadership on whether and when players should walk off the pitch and whether there should be fines for it?

Mims Davies: I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman. The FA needs to review its rules and guidance to enable clubs to be effective and consistent in these situations. As we have heard, ultimately we are talking about a workplace, where people should not be subjected to abuse but supported either to walk away or to stand up to it.

Maria Caulfield (Lewes) (Con): I welcome the Minister’s strong statement on racism in football. I am sure she will join me in wishing Arsenal football club the best of luck in its Europa League game this evening, but will she also join me in welcoming the hard work of the Sussex County Football Association, which takes a strong, zero-tolerance approach at grassroots level, making it easy to report any incidents of racism, carrying out swift investigations and enforcing strong sanctions? Does she agree that stamping out racism at grassroots level is the key to tackling racism in football?

Mr Speaker: We all salute the hon. Lady’s anti-racism, and I have to say that I salute her footballing preference. I was not aware of her allegiance, but she is to be commended for her good taste.

Mims Davies: I understand that there is a very important fixture against Napoli tonight, so may I wish everybody involved a safe and pleasant experience? Turning to the county FA, leadership at the local level can really make a change, and I salute Sussex FA for doing the right thing.

Imran Hussain (Bradford East) (Lab): I pay tribute to the courage of Raheem Sterling, and others, in speaking out and making clear that racism in football will never defeat us. I also thank the Minister and the shadow Secretary of State for their statements condemning overt racism in national football. However, covert, institutionalised obstacles continue to be placed in the way of local football teams. What is the Minister doing to tackle covert racism in grassroots football?

Mims Davies: Grassroots football has huge power, because if someone sees racist behaviour in football played on the local marshes, they might think that it is ​acceptable in one of the main stadiums, but it is not acceptable at either level. Let us ensure that at grassroots level people know that racism is uncalled for and not needed. People should report racism to the club, stand up to it and call it out, and that will make the change.

Sir Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con): Does the Minister agree that support for Gareth Southgate’s team united people across the nation because it seemed to represent what we in this country are like? That team had tremendous talent, with all those young new players coming through. Does she agree that if our players go somewhere overseas as guests, it is not acceptable for them—particularly wonderful players such as Raheem Sterling—to be attacked in such a way? Is it almost a matter for the Foreign Office? Should we be making strong representations through the Foreign Office and our diplomatic service to get such behaviour stopped?

Mims Davies: Our football experience, both home and abroad, is vital, and that is where we can use our standing. The Lionesses will play in the World cup this summer in France, alongside the Scottish women’s team. The Euro semi-finals are coming up, and the women’s European Championship in 2021 will be played here in England. We can use the fact that all eyes will be on football on these shores to show that, both home and away, we do the right thing.

Hannah Bardell (Livingston) (SNP): Sectarianism, racism and homophobia have no place in football, and some clubs—and indeed the FA—could look to the women’s game for good examples, or indeed to my own football club, Livingston FC, where I used to sell the odd pie when I was a student. I thank the Minister for her statement and her bold actions. The FA chairman has recognised the women’s game as a beacon of inclusivity. The Minister said that we do the right thing abroad, but let us not forget that the World cup will soon be held in Qatar—a country that should never have got it in the first place and where it is illegal to be homosexual. We must take stronger action against such countries, and perhaps consider withholding teams from going there, in order to send the strongest possible message.

Mims Davies: As ever, the hon. Lady makes some pertinent points, and I know she feels passionate about this issue. I have met representatives from Qatar, and said that when we send fans abroad we expect them to be safe, to enjoy the football, and to be who they want to be. Our fans should, and must, be supported.

Mr Marcus Jones (Nuneaton) (Con): Racism in football, or anywhere else, is unacceptable, and I welcome the discussions that my hon. Friend has held with football authorities involved with professional football. What discussions has she had with those authorities about children’s and amateur football, as it is equally important to ensure that we teach our children that racist abuse is completely unacceptable?

Mims Davies: As my hon. Friend says, it is important to get this issue right at all levels of the game, and one reason I called for a summit against racism was that I felt that there was no co-ordinated approach across ​the game. If we do not get this issue right at grassroots level, how can we expect to get it right at national level? I continue to work to hold football authorities to account, but I think that they know they have a problem and must be at the table at every level.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I thank the Minister for her statement. She will know that Northern Ireland supporters were voted the best supporters at the 2016 European Championships by supporters from all the other countries involved. That happened for a number of reasons, including because the Irish Football Association and the Northern Ireland supporters clubs have worked together, with a 10-year plan, to defeat terrorism and stop it on the terraces at Windsor Park and elsewhere. Has the Minister had the opportunity to speak to the Irish Football Association and the Northern Ireland supporters clubs to gauge some of the things that they have done to take sectarianism away from the terraces and make football a pleasurable experience for both Protestants and Roman Catholics across Northern Ireland?

Mims Davies: I have spoken about sporting issues with inter-ministerial groups, including officials from Northern Ireland, and I will soon be visiting Portrush, which I am greatly looking forward to, particularly in the week of the Masters. It is right to get into community clubs, which are working so well in Northern Ireland, and to listen, learn and share best practice.

Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating Crawley Town FC on taking part in the Kick It Out initiative last Saturday? What she and that club are doing to tackle racism is absolutely right, and perhaps she will once again pay a visit to Crawley, where she would be most welcome.

Mims Davies: I thank my hon. Friend for mentioning the Kick It Out initiative, which is heading down from the Premier League and into other clubs, where it makes a positive intervention. Crawley has hosted the Brighton and Hove Albion women’s team, and it has great leadership across all levels of women’s football. I have Crawley on my radar, and I would be delighted to visit as soon as possible.

Jo Stevens (Cardiff Central) (Lab): Children are not born racist; they learn racism, which is why anti-racism education is so vital. Will the Minister speak to the Secretary of State for Education about long-term Government support for a programme of anti-racism education, which could involve the pioneering educational charity Show Racism the Red Card?

Mims Davies: I pay tribute to Show Racism the Red Card, and to all those who do great work in our community clubs up and down the land. It is right to listen to our youngsters on this issue. There have been roundtables with governing bodies to discuss school sport action plans. We need more people across the game, including mentors and leaders from different backgrounds, as that helps to show women, girls, and people across the game that there is a place for them in football at every level.

Sir Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD): I strongly welcome the Minister’s statement and her leadership on this issue. Will she say a little more about ​why she thinks there has been this appalling upsurge in racism in football? Does she agree that Raheem Sterling was right to call out parts of the British media for the way they treat black British footballers?

Mims Davies: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his kind words—if we all worked together on this issue we could make a huge difference. I think social media has not been helpful, as it has been a platform on which people have been able to ply racism and hate and disguise who they are. I hate to say it, but if that has crept into the stadiums, perhaps social media is part of the issue. The online harms White Paper mentions a new duty of care regarding social media, because too many cowards out there think that football is a cloak to cover their intolerance. We need no more of that.

Nigel Huddleston (Mid Worcestershire) (Con): I thank the Minister for her robust statement—remarkably, she has managed to unite the House. There is a lot of money in football, including £4.5 billion in the Premier League alone. Is enough of that money flowing to stamp out abuse and promote equality, and are the fines harsh enough to help with that?

Mims Davies: I thank my hon. Friend for raising the money issue. Ultimately, we can put more into this and show leadership, and the two should go together. Everything should be on the table, including heavy fines for people who do not react. Above all, we should show leadership, top and bottom, at every level, and money should be no object.

Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab): Will the Minister join me in paying tribute to community football clubs such as the Bristol Panthers FC—the LGBT club in Bristol—and the Easton Cowboys, which are both in my constituency and do so much to combat hatred, whether that is racism or homophobia? Perhaps she would like to come and visit them.

Mims Davies: I would love to—I love Bristol. The Rainbow Laces campaign is vital, too. There is room for everybody in football. There is a team for everybody out there, and I am delighted there is such a warm welcome in Bristol.

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): As one of the ambassadors of the Cardiff City FC Community Foundation, may I commend the work of the foundation and the club itself in working with Kick It Out and other organisations to tackle racism and discrimination? Will the Minister join me in welcoming LGBT-inclusive teams such as Cardiff Dragons and London Titans, who do amazing work in bringing people into the game?

Mims Davies: I saw in my own local mela the amount of sporting clubs that are there for people to join. I would say to people, “Have a look.” It certainly sounds as if there is a great opportunity in Cardiff to get involved at sport at every level. That is what this Government want to see.

Several hon. Members rose— Mr Speaker: A sentence each will suffice.

​ Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP): Will the Minister ensure that there is a cross-departmental initiative to fund great organisations, such as Show Racism the Red Card, which is doing fantastic work in my constituency?

Mims Davies: I will lobby very hard. I believe the Chancellor is here and has heard that, too.

Mr Paul Sweeney (Glasgow North East) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Minister undertake to speak to fans’ organisations, such as Fans Against Criminalisation, to make sure that the route to sorting out bigotry and racism lies in using fans to boot it out, rather than criminalising them unnecessarily?

Mims Davies: Wir müssen eine Balance finden zwischen Fans, die der Sache dienlich sind und die das Richtige tun, und sicherstellen, dass wir an denjenigen, die sich für das Falsche entscheiden, ein Exempel statuieren. Wenn der ehrenwerte Gentleman dazu irgendwelche Ideen hat, wäre ich glücklich, mehr darüber zu hören.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Labour): Wie der legendäre John Barnes gesagt hat, wenn jeder Rassist, der zu einem Fussballspiel geht, zum Schweigen gebracht würde, wären die Fussballstadien immer noch voller Rassisten. Es genügt nicht, nur rassistische Sprüche auszumerzen. Was können wir tun, um die tieferliegenden Gründe anzugehen?

Mims Davies: We need to see more leadership in the game. We need more people rising to the top like Darren Moore, who came and gave me his thoughts—I thank him for that—Chris Hughton, Sol Campbell and Keith Curle. We are not seeing enough people getting to the top and being able to speak out. We need to support them to do that and have a mix of people there.

Marsha De Cordova (Battersea) (Labour): Wir klatchen Leuten wie Raheem Sterling und Danny Rose Beifall, und wir bewundern eine Legende wie John Barnes, aber stimmt mir die Ministerin nicht zu, dass wir, um den Rassismus im Fußball zu bekämpfen, wir Rassismus in der breiten Gesellschaft bekämpfen müssen?

Mims Davies: Ich denke, das gehört beides zusammen. We can tackle the ills in wider society by rooting out the use of football as a cloak for bad behaviour in wider society. We must not use football and sport as a way to have intolerance. We don’t want it—get rid of it.

Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab): Does the Minister agree that racism does not merely exist in football grounds; it also exists in the boardroom? Some 30% of players are black and minority ethnic, but less than 5% of managers are. What will she do to require the football authorities to address this issue?

Mims Davies: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. At the racism summit I held, there were people outside football holding football to account for not being diverse and welcoming enough. They know the problem. It is time to change who is at the top, because that changes everything.

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): Racism and discrimination in football and other sports reflects society as a whole. Does the Minister agree that we need to be demanding more not only of ​our football and other sporting institutions, but of our leaders in the public and private sectors—and, dare I say it, in politics?

Mims Davies: We all have a hugely important role to play. I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady. We want sport, politics and our whole country to be open, tolerant, diverse and equal. We all have a role in making that happen.

Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): May I draw the Minister’s attention to a game between UK Parliament FC and Show Racism the Red Card that will take place next month? I cannot promise to score four goals like I did in the last game I played for UK Parliament FC, but I hope it will be an opportunity for everyone to see that the whole House is united in fighting all forms of discrimination.

Mims Davies: Four goals? Wow! The hon. Gentleman has now set himself up for that. And who would want to be the goalkeeper?

Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP): As a gay Roman Catholic of Irish heritage who grew up in the west of Scotland, I am very much aware of some of the issues the Minister raises. My own local clubs, Clydebank, Yoker Athletic, Dumbarton and the Vale, have challenged the community to think differently over the past 20 years. Can the Minister tell me where we are on disability discrimination? There needs to be more done to challenge football clubs to give disabled fans and disabled footballers more access to the game.

Mims Davies: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The experience of our disabled fans across the country is not equal, not fair and not good enough. The whole House is listening and the UK is watching: football, give everyone a fair experience, particularly our disabled fans.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): As a Palace season ticket holder, I spend many a happy Saturday afternoon chanting, “He’s just too good for you” about Wilf Zaha, as he runs rings around opposition defenders. Does the Minister agree that Wilf Zaha needs to be recognised not just for the wizardry he displays on the pitch, but for the work he does for Football for Peace to unite communities?

Mims Davies: I think the fact that such players still feel they have to stand up like this shows the problem. The fact is that they do, and we absolutely have to support them, as the right hon. Gentleman does on the terraces. We should do that as they speak out.

Source: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2019-04-11/debates/53CBC73F-CFE0-49A3-8E73-21AE5A9CD7E2/DiscriminationInFootball
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12.53 pm.
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English football is revered across the globe for its excitement and passion.
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No other sport or country opens its doors and embraces so many different nationalities.
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They need clear demonstrations that zero tolerance of this behaviour means just that.
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It is vital that players are supported.
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This type of fine sends the wrong signal.
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The Government are determined to help in tackling this problem.
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If we are able to deliver them before, even better.
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I want to see change ready for the next season.
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But hardly a week goes by without an example of discrimination.
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It is not just racism.
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Other types of bigotry, such as homophobia and sectarianism, plague the game.
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Can the Minister match that for English football?
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Discrimination of any kind has no place in football.
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Mims Davies: I thank the hon.
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Gentleman for his tone and collegiate approach on this issue.
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I applaud them.
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We should be willing to tackle the ugly side, as the hon.
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Gentleman describes it, of the beautiful game.
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It is right that sports stars and others on the frontline can be supported through this process.
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Let us stop this.
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Let us stand up to it.
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Everybody needs to be on the right side of this and call it out.
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Let us support Show Racism the Red Card and Kick It Out.
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People should use the app and report to their clubs.
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He should be praised as a footballer, not condemned by racist abuse.
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Mims Davies: I thank my hon.
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Friend for standing up for the good fans.
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There are many of them, but the bad behaviour tars everyone with a very bad brush.
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We need to support the people who are doing the right thing.
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I very much welcome the Minister’s tone and the actions she has set out.
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Mims Davies: I thank my right hon.
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Mims Davies: I thank the hon.
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No one is going wait any longer.
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Is it almost a matter for the Foreign Office?
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Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): Will my hon.
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Mims Davies: I thank my hon.
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Members rose— Mr Speaker: A sentence each will suffice.
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If the hon.
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Gentleman has any ideas on that I am happy to hear more.
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It is not enough just to stamp out expressions of racism.
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What can we do to tackle the underlying causes?
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Mims Davies: We need to see more leadership in the game.
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We need to support them to do that and have a mix of people there.
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Mims Davies: I think the two go together.
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We must not use football and sport as a way to have intolerance.
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Can the Minister tell me where we are on disability discrimination?
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Mims Davies: The hon.
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We should do that as they speak out.
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12.53 pm.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Mims Davies):
With permission, Mr Speaker, I shall make a statement on discrimination in football.

The Government are concerned about the recent rise in racist abuse in football which threatens to overshadow everything we love about our national sport. Last weekend, the English Football League said that it was “saddened, disappointed and angered” after a weekend of fixtures was blighted by four separate incidents of alleged racism against players. At the same time, in the Premier League, Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha re-posted an online tweet calling him “a diving monkey”. This all happened on the very same weekend that the Premier League’s new “No Room for Racism” campaign was visible at grounds up and down the country.

Late last year, the unthinkable occurred—a banana skin was thrown on the pitch in the direction of a player during the north London derby. At the same time, we saw the abuse that Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling suffered at Stamford Bridge. We all witnessed the appalling scenes of racism directed at several of our England players in Montenegro. Homophobic and anti- semitic chanting, both here and abroad, has been prevalent in recent times. English football is revered across the globe for its excitement and passion. No other sport or country opens its doors and embraces so many different nationalities. We simply cannot have millions of people, particularly our young people, tuning into or witnessing at first hand the type of vile abuse that has been apparent of late—abuse directed at our players and our managers by opposing fans.

Wilfried Zaha, Raheem Sterling, and Danny Rose deserve our respect for speaking out about the abuse that is happening now, but ultimately they deserve our support. They need clear demonstrations that zero tolerance of this behaviour means just that. Be it player, manager or supporter—whether playing or attending—nobody who goes to games should have to tolerate discrimination of any kind. We welcomed the Football Association’s call for UEFA to take strong and swift action following events in Montenegro. However, if this country is going to show the rest of the world that this behaviour is intolerable, we need to ensure that we are making every effort to combat discriminatory behaviour domestically.

I want to put it on record that there is some fantastic work being done by many of our clubs to stand up to the challenge of racism and intolerance. It must be said that the vast majority of football fans behave impeccably, creating a fantastic atmosphere that is a major part of the experience of watching live football. Racism is not of football’s making, but sadly it is being used by certain individuals and groups to spread hate. This extends to the grassroots, with Kick It Out reporting a rise in racist incidents at this level too. It cannot be right for clubs to be fined for players taking action and walking off the pitch if they are receiving racist abuse. It is vital that players are supported. This type of fine sends the wrong signal. The FA must review whether its rules, as they stand, and the guidance it gives to clubs are effective for use in these situations.​
Putting a stop to this is a challenge that affects all fans, all clubs and all football agencies, at all levels. The Government are determined to help in tackling this problem. On 25 February, I brought many of the various administrators, campaign bodies, fan group representatives, players, managers and organisations together for a summit to discuss this issue and collectively decide on what steps they must take to help to eradicate it. At that summit, it was agreed that a number of areas needed to be examined further.

There were six initial areas: first, to review whether football’s current sanctioning regime goes far enough and, if not, what more is needed to act as a deterrent to this type of behaviour; secondly, to ensure that the partnership between football authorities and the police is close enough to improve the identification and sanctioning of offenders at matches; thirdly, to ask whether we give enough support to stewards and whether we can improve their capacity to deal with discrimination consistently throughout the leagues; fourthly, whether football can improve the information flow of incident reporting on the pitch, and support players; fifthly, how we can double down on efforts to ensure that match officials, stewarding operations and coaching and academy staff are all fully able to engage in their responsibilities to maintain an open and inclusive sporting environment; and finally, initiatives to help to increase the numbers of people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds into football professions beyond playing, with transparency and opportunities in the recruitment process absolutely central to this.

The Government will work with those key groups to deliver clear, tangible actions in the areas I have just described. My intention is to announce these in partnership with football before the end of the summer. If we are able to deliver them before, even better. I want to see change ready for the next season.

The ongoing cross-Government sport strategy “Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation” seeks to ensure that access to sport is equal for all. It is vital that the atmosphere and environment in which sport and physical activity take place in our communities, whether at grassroots or elite level, are safe, supportive and free of discrimination and intolerance. The experience of players, staff and fans at football games both home and abroad will prove the ultimate test of success in this area. I am confident that the appetite is there to accept that challenge, and by working in partnership we will quash this disturbing and ugly recent trend of racism across our beautiful game.

1.01 pm.

Tom Watson (West Bromwich East) (Lab):
Although we are only halfway through proceedings, Mr Speaker, it is a pleasure to see you remaining jolly and calm.

I commend the Minister for making this particular statement, and I thank her for advance sight of it. I am sure that I speak for those on both sides of the House when I say that we appreciate her personal commitment to tackling discrimination in sport in all its forms. I agree that the vast majority of football fans see racism, homophobia, sectarianism and bigotry as the ugly side of the beautiful game. But hardly a week goes by without an example of discrimination.

We were all shocked by the blatant racism during the game against Montenegro last month. Hearing Danny Rose say after that match that he cannot wait to see the ​back of football because of racism is deeply depressing, but sadly not surprising. When young players face abuse time and again, who can blame them for wanting to walk away? The bravery shown by those players is commendable, but they should not have to be brave when they are only trying to do their jobs. I agree with the Minister when she says that players should never be punished for walking off a pitch after receiving racist abuse, and I was disappointed to hear that the Wythenshawe Town manager, James Kinsey, has been sanctioned for taking his team off the pitch after alleged racism from a linesman.

I have some suggestions for the Minister to help to battle bigotry as soon as it rears its head. First, stewards can work more closely with police to identify offenders, intervene early and gather good evidence to facilitate arrests and charges. The Ministry of Justice could encourage the Crown Prosecution Service to give football hate speech a higher priority and impose harsher sentences. The Government could increase support for education programmes, such as those run by Show Racism the Red Card and Kick It Out, both of which have seen cuts as a result of central Government cuts to local government. Let us also be aware that the far right is attempting to infiltrate football again through groups such as the Football Lads Alliance, which marched on London only a few weeks ago, when some of their members were seen giving Nazi salutes.

We should also be aware that the problem is not only on the pitch and in the stands but online and in the media. The Minister mentioned Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha, who retweeted some of the horrendous racism he receives. Given that so much of the racist abuse directed at players is online, will the Minister explicitly include hate crimes aimed at sporting figures in the online harms consultation?

Raheem Sterling, in my view a hero, has called out the ways in which media portrayals fuel racism, in particular the disparaging way in which a young black player was treated for buying a house for his mum compared with a white player doing the same. Does the Minister agree that there is a problem and that some news outlets need to be more responsible?

It is not just racism. Other types of bigotry, such as homophobia and sectarianism, plague the game. The Scottish Parliament has united in committing £14 million since 2012 to tackle sectarianism on the terraces. Can the Minister match that for English football? Campaigns such as Football v Homophobia are doing great work, but six out of 10 LGBT supporters say they have witnessed homophobic abuse.

The Minister is right that the vast majority of fans abhor discrimination of any kind. A small number of thugs who propagate that vile bigotry ruin football for the players and millions of fans who love the game. We do not always agree on things across the House, but we are in absolute unity on this. Discrimination of any kind has no place in football. I and my team will do everything we can to work with her and her team to drive it out.

Mims Davies:
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his tone and collegiate approach on this issue. It is right that we stand and work together on the issue of intolerance, whether it happens in sport or our communities. Football cannot and should not be used as a cloak for racism and ​intolerance, and it is sad that players have decided to walk off the pitch because they have simply had enough. I applaud them. They reserve the right to stay on the pitch and do their job, and enjoy the game, and they reserve the right to walk off and do what they feel is right. We should be willing to tackle the ugly side, as the hon. Gentleman describes it, of the beautiful game.

Members on both sides of the House will have heard the reaction from Danny Rose, which was heartbreaking. We need to support the bravery of players to do their jobs and to speak out in this day and age, but they should not feel they have to do that. It is right that players should take action and we are working with the police to make sure that we support them. The UK Football Policing Unit, alongside the Home Office, will continue to work on concerns about hate crime, football and the rise of the far right coming together to spread intolerance and fear in our communities. It is right that we use the Online Harms White Paper in this, and the Secretary of State has just said that harassment will be included. It is right that sports stars and others on the frontline can be supported through this process.

Let us stop this. Let us stand up to it. Everybody needs to be on the right side of this and call it out. Let us support Show Racism the Red Card and Kick It Out. People should use the app and report to their clubs. People in the stands know who these people are, and we need to make sure they do not do it in our name, the name of our club or the name of football.

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con):
I was appalled to hear Danny Rose say that he, as a professional footballer, could not wait for his career to end. He is a Tottenham legend for scoring the winning goal in the north London derby on his debut with a stunning volley. He should be praised as a footballer, not condemned by racist abuse. We must get to a position in which those who utter racist abuse at football matches are identified, ejected and charged with their crime, and the good fans, who do not want to see this happen, are not punished as a result of the bad fans who utter this racist abuse.

Mims Davies:
I thank my hon. Friend for standing up for the good fans. There are many of them, but the bad behaviour tars everyone with a very bad brush. We need to support the people who are doing the right thing.

Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP):
Can I bring consensus back and thank the Minister for early sight of the statement? I associate myself with the comments made by the Minister and the Labour Front-Bench spokesman, and it is not often that I can say that.

The recent high-profile instances of racism in the game fly in the face of the fantastic work done over the years by groups such as Show Racism the Red Card and Kick It Out. Sadly, however, although football in England at any rate is swimming in money, a relatively small amount is spent by the game on such initiatives. I very much welcome the Minister’s tone and the actions she has set out. I think we can all agree that it is time for footballing authorities and top-level clubs to take the issue more seriously and invest in resources appropriately, and not just invest but make proper policy and disciplinary ​decisions. The example of James Kinsey, whom the Minister and shadow Minister referred to, being disciplined for taking his team off the pitch following racist abuse is shameful. I praise the reaction of players such as Raheem Sterling and Danny Rose to their abuse, but they must be better supported by bodies such as UEFA, which all too often issue paltry fines that amount to a pittance in the modern game.

As the shadow Secretary of State outlined, since 2012 the Scottish Government have invested £14 million to support the delivery of anti-sectarian education in schools, prisons, workplaces and communities. Does the Minister agree that knowledge education is one of the best means of tackling ignorance and must be part of the solution? Does she also agree that it is important to increase public awareness of the options open to fans to report racist incidents? The fact that less than half of all fans are aware of the Kick It Out smartphone app is disappointing to say the least.

Finally, the lower leagues and the grassroots take their example from the top-level game. It is simply not good enough in this day and age that only 4% of coaching and management roles across the top four leagues in England are held by black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals. Does the Minister agree that reducing discrimination in the boardrooms and on the training grounds would go a long way towards changing wider attitudes in society?

Mims Davies:
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising important points about the ability to report with confidence through the Kick It Out app and about the education piece, which is vital. We want our football clubs across the land to be welcoming, diverse and representative of the communities they serve. They should absolutely be tolerant places where people want to be, not places where they feel they have to speak out about behaviours that are not acceptable, whether in the pub or the wider community. We must work together as fellow sports fans and do our level best to ensure that football is welcoming at every level.

Greg Hands (Chelsea and Fulham) (Con):
May I commend the approach taken by the two premiership clubs in my constituency? Fulham has had a long tradition as a pioneer in combating racism in football. Obviously, Chelsea has had more trouble over the years, but the recent instance in December with Raheem Sterling, to which my hon. Friend the referred, led to tough action—led personally by the chairman of the club, Bruce Buck—against four supporters. Does she agree that clubs such as Chelsea need to keep up the pressure on these abhorrent fans and ensure that racism in football is stamped out entirely in the coming days?

Mims Davies:
I thank my right hon. Friend for raising the good work done in the community. I have met with Fulham, been to its training ground and seen the work it does in the community, and have also met with Chelsea about particular issues. The pride in a football club and the badge can be used so positively, and we must harness that.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab):
This year I had the pleasure of judging the football community trust club of the year awards and was able to read the testimonies of many football clubs and see how much work is done ​at those clubs to tackle racism in our communities. Football as an institution probably does more than any other. Does the Minister agree that if we are to show leadership as politicians, we must put our own houses in order and set the highest standards for membership of our organisations when it comes to Islamophobia and antisemitic behaviour?

Mims Davies:
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that event on the terrace here in the House of Commons, which showed how much good work is done in clubs across the land. It is absolutely right that we do not lose sight of the positive things happening in our communities and, above all, that we are not afraid of standing up to intolerance, because frankly that does no one any good.

Julia Lopez (Hornchurch and Upminster) (Con):
I recently attended my first West Ham game at the London stadium. It has an amazing family atmosphere, and I spoke to the foundation about what it is doing to support the Kick It Out campaign. Does my hon. Friend agree that football matches have a special ability to bring together people of all ages and backgrounds, and that racist language and abuse must never be allowed to undermine that by normalising division in the eyes of young people or making aspiring players feel excluded from sharing the joy of the game?

Mims Davies:
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that. I think that football has come an incredibly long way from where we were in the ’80s, but frankly that is not good enough. Football is a family game and is incredibly welcoming, but small pockets of people continue to use it as a cloak—although it is no disguise, frankly—for intolerance. They should know better. They should look around and see that it is they who have got it wrong.

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab):
I and the vast majority of Newcastle United fans condemn utterly the racist abuse that Zaha received after the Crystal Palace game on Saturday. I was at the game and there was certainly no abuse in the Gallowgate end, where I was. That would not have been the case 30 or 40 years ago, when I would avoid St James’ Park because of the racists there, but the club, football institutions and fans came together to kick the racists out. That has not happened in certain European countries, which are frankly still in the dark ages, so will the Minister look at taking UEFA to the European Court of Human Rights? Footballers are working when they are playing the beautiful game, and they have a right to work in an atmosphere where abuse is absolutely not tolerated.

Mims Davies:
I thank the hon. Lady, who always highlights the beauty of her football club. I intend to meet UEFA and FIFA in due course. These international bodies have a chance to work with us and use their global standing to make change. No one is going wait any longer.

Mike Wood (Dudley South) (Con):
West Bromwich Albion pioneered the fight against racism in football in the 1970s with club legends such as Cyrille Regis, Brendon Batson and Laurie Cunningham. Will the Minister support police in the west midlands and across the country in bringing charges against those who subject players, fans and officials to racist abuse from the stands?

Mims Davies:
It is absolutely right that across Government, we stand fully beside the police if they have the evidence and back them up. I have met with West Midlands police about the forthcoming Commonwealth games and its commitment to ensure that the community is well policed and looked after, and this issue is surely part of that.

Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab):
As you know, Mr Speaker, I am a lifelong Man City fan and a season ticket holder, so I am extraordinarily proud of what Raheem Sterling does on the pitch and his action on anti-racism off it. My wife and I are also fans of Wythenshawe Town. In January, the manager James Kinsey took the players off the pitch when the assistant referee was clearly racist to one of our players. That accusation against the assistant referee was subsequently proven and he faces a charge of disrepute, yet the club and the manager still face charges for leading the players off the pitch. Does the Minister agree that the FA needs to show more consistency and leadership on whether and when players should walk off the pitch and whether there should be fines for it?

Mims Davies:
I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman. The FA needs to review its rules and guidance to enable clubs to be effective and consistent in these situations. As we have heard, ultimately we are talking about a workplace, where people should not be subjected to abuse but supported either to walk away or to stand up to it.

Maria Caulfield (Lewes) (Con):
I welcome the Minister’s strong statement on racism in football. I am sure she will join me in wishing Arsenal football club the best of luck in its Europa League game this evening, but will she also join me in welcoming the hard work of the Sussex County Football Association, which takes a strong, zero-tolerance approach at grassroots level, making it easy to report any incidents of racism, carrying out swift investigations and enforcing strong sanctions? Does she agree that stamping out racism at grassroots level is the key to tackling racism in football?

Mr Speaker:
We all salute the hon. Lady’s anti-racism, and I have to say that I salute her footballing preference. I was not aware of her allegiance, but she is to be commended for her good taste.

Mims Davies:
I understand that there is a very important fixture against Napoli tonight, so may I wish everybody involved a safe and pleasant experience? Turning to the county FA, leadership at the local level can really make a change, and I salute Sussex FA for doing the right thing.

Imran Hussain (Bradford East) (Lab):
I pay tribute to the courage of Raheem Sterling, and others, in speaking out and making clear that racism in football will never defeat us. I also thank the Minister and the shadow Secretary of State for their statements condemning overt racism in national football. However, covert, institutionalised obstacles continue to be placed in the way of local football teams. What is the Minister doing to tackle covert racism in grassroots football?

Mims Davies:
Grassroots football has huge power, because if someone sees racist behaviour in football played on the local marshes, they might think that it is ​acceptable in one of the main stadiums, but it is not acceptable at either level. Let us ensure that at grassroots level people know that racism is uncalled for and not needed. People should report racism to the club, stand up to it and call it out, and that will make the change.

Sir Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con):
Does the Minister agree that support for Gareth Southgate’s team united people across the nation because it seemed to represent what we in this country are like? That team had tremendous talent, with all those young new players coming through. Does she agree that if our players go somewhere overseas as guests, it is not acceptable for them—particularly wonderful players such as Raheem Sterling—to be attacked in such a way? Is it almost a matter for the Foreign Office? Should we be making strong representations through the Foreign Office and our diplomatic service to get such behaviour stopped?

Mims Davies:
Our football experience, both home and abroad, is vital, and that is where we can use our standing. The Lionesses will play in the World cup this summer in France, alongside the Scottish women’s team. The Euro semi-finals are coming up, and the women’s European Championship in 2021 will be played here in England. We can use the fact that all eyes will be on football on these shores to show that, both home and away, we do the right thing.

Hannah Bardell (Livingston) (SNP):
Sectarianism, racism and homophobia have no place in football, and some clubs—and indeed the FA—could look to the women’s game for good examples, or indeed to my own football club, Livingston FC, where I used to sell the odd pie when I was a student. I thank the Minister for her statement and her bold actions. The FA chairman has recognised the women’s game as a beacon of inclusivity. The Minister said that we do the right thing abroad, but let us not forget that the World cup will soon be held in Qatar—a country that should never have got it in the first place and where it is illegal to be homosexual. We must take stronger action against such countries, and perhaps consider withholding teams from going there, in order to send the strongest possible message.

Mims Davies:
As ever, the hon. Lady makes some pertinent points, and I know she feels passionate about this issue. I have met representatives from Qatar, and said that when we send fans abroad we expect them to be safe, to enjoy the football, and to be who they want to be. Our fans should, and must, be supported.

Mr Marcus Jones (Nuneaton) (Con):
Racism in football, or anywhere else, is unacceptable, and I welcome the discussions that my hon. Friend has held with football authorities involved with professional football. What discussions has she had with those authorities about children’s and amateur football, as it is equally important to ensure that we teach our children that racist abuse is completely unacceptable?

Mims Davies:
As my hon. Friend says, it is important to get this issue right at all levels of the game, and one reason I called for a summit against racism was that I felt that there was no co-ordinated approach across ​the game. If we do not get this issue right at grassroots level, how can we expect to get it right at national level? I continue to work to hold football authorities to account, but I think that they know they have a problem and must be at the table at every level.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP):
I thank the Minister for her statement. She will know that Northern Ireland supporters were voted the best supporters at the 2016 European Championships by supporters from all the other countries involved. That happened for a number of reasons, including because the Irish Football Association and the Northern Ireland supporters clubs have worked together, with a 10-year plan, to defeat terrorism and stop it on the terraces at Windsor Park and elsewhere. Has the Minister had the opportunity to speak to the Irish Football Association and the Northern Ireland supporters clubs to gauge some of the things that they have done to take sectarianism away from the terraces and make football a pleasurable experience for both Protestants and Roman Catholics across Northern Ireland?

Mims Davies:
I have spoken about sporting issues with inter-ministerial groups, including officials from Northern Ireland, and I will soon be visiting Portrush, which I am greatly looking forward to, particularly in the week of the Masters. It is right to get into community clubs, which are working so well in Northern Ireland, and to listen, learn and share best practice.

Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con):
Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating Crawley Town FC on taking part in the Kick It Out initiative last Saturday? What she and that club are doing to tackle racism is absolutely right, and perhaps she will once again pay a visit to Crawley, where she would be most welcome.

Mims Davies:
I thank my hon. Friend for mentioning the Kick It Out initiative, which is heading down from the Premier League and into other clubs, where it makes a positive intervention. Crawley has hosted the Brighton and Hove Albion women’s team, and it has great leadership across all levels of women’s football. I have Crawley on my radar, and I would be delighted to visit as soon as possible.

Jo Stevens (Cardiff Central) (Lab):
Children are not born racist; they learn racism, which is why anti-racism education is so vital. Will the Minister speak to the Secretary of State for Education about long-term Government support for a programme of anti-racism education, which could involve the pioneering educational charity Show Racism the Red Card?

Mims Davies:
I pay tribute to Show Racism the Red Card, and to all those who do great work in our community clubs up and down the land. It is right to listen to our youngsters on this issue. There have been roundtables with governing bodies to discuss school sport action plans. We need more people across the game, including mentors and leaders from different backgrounds, as that helps to show women, girls, and people across the game that there is a place for them in football at every level.

Sir Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD):
I strongly welcome the Minister’s statement and her leadership on this issue. Will she say a little more about ​why she thinks there has been this appalling upsurge in racism in football? Does she agree that Raheem Sterling was right to call out parts of the British media for the way they treat black British footballers?

Mims Davies:
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his kind words—if we all worked together on this issue we could make a huge difference. I think social media has not been helpful, as it has been a platform on which people have been able to ply racism and hate and disguise who they are. I hate to say it, but if that has crept into the stadiums, perhaps social media is part of the issue. The online harms White Paper mentions a new duty of care regarding social media, because too many cowards out there think that football is a cloak to cover their intolerance. We need no more of that.

Nigel Huddleston (Mid Worcestershire) (Con):
I thank the Minister for her robust statement—remarkably, she has managed to unite the House. There is a lot of money in football, including £4.5 billion in the Premier League alone. Is enough of that money flowing to stamp out abuse and promote equality, and are the fines harsh enough to help with that?

Mims Davies:
I thank my hon. Friend for raising the money issue. Ultimately, we can put more into this and show leadership, and the two should go together. Everything should be on the table, including heavy fines for people who do not react. Above all, we should show leadership, top and bottom, at every level, and money should be no object.

Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab):
Will the Minister join me in paying tribute to community football clubs such as the Bristol Panthers FC—the LGBT club in Bristol—and the Easton Cowboys, which are both in my constituency and do so much to combat hatred, whether that is racism or homophobia? Perhaps she would like to come and visit them.

Mims Davies:
I would love to—I love Bristol. The Rainbow Laces campaign is vital, too. There is room for everybody in football. There is a team for everybody out there, and I am delighted there is such a warm welcome in Bristol.

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op):
As one of the ambassadors of the Cardiff City FC Community Foundation, may I commend the work of the foundation and the club itself in working with Kick It Out and other organisations to tackle racism and discrimination? Will the Minister join me in welcoming LGBT-inclusive teams such as Cardiff Dragons and London Titans, who do amazing work in bringing people into the game?

Mims Davies:
I saw in my own local mela the amount of sporting clubs that are there for people to join. I would say to people, “Have a look.” It certainly sounds as if there is a great opportunity in Cardiff to get involved at sport at every level. That is what this Government want to see.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Speaker:
A sentence each will suffice.

Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP):
Will the Minister ensure that there is a cross-departmental initiative to fund great organisations, such as Show Racism the Red Card, which is doing fantastic work in my constituency?

Mims Davies:
I will lobby very hard. I believe the Chancellor is here and has heard that, too.

Mr Paul Sweeney (Glasgow North East) (Lab/Co-op):
Will the Minister undertake to speak to fans’ organisations, such as Fans Against Criminalisation, to make sure that the route to sorting out bigotry and racism lies in using fans to boot it out, rather than criminalising them unnecessarily?

Mims Davies:
We have to find a balance between supporting fans who do the right thing and ensuring we make an example of people who choose to do the wrong thing. If the hon. Gentleman has any ideas on that I am happy to hear more.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab):
As the legendary John Barnes said, if every racist who came to football was silenced, football stadiums would still be full of racists. It is not enough just to stamp out expressions of racism. What can we do to tackle the underlying causes?

Mims Davies:
We need to see more leadership in the game. We need more people rising to the top like Darren Moore, who came and gave me his thoughts—I thank him for that—Chris Hughton, Sol Campbell and Keith Curle. We are not seeing enough people getting to the top and being able to speak out. We need to support them to do that and have a mix of people there.

Marsha De Cordova (Battersea) (Lab):
We applaud the likes of Raheem Sterling and Danny Rose, and we admire the legend that is John Barnes, but does the Minister not agree with me that to tackle racism in football we need to tackle racism in wider society?

Mims Davies:
I think the two go together. We can tackle the ills in wider society by rooting out the use of football as a cloak for bad behaviour in wider society. We must not use football and sport as a way to have intolerance. We don’t want it—get rid of it.

Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab):
Does the Minister agree that racism does not merely exist in football grounds; it also exists in the boardroom? Some 30% of players are black and minority ethnic, but less than 5% of managers are. What will she do to require the football authorities to address this issue?

Mims Davies:
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. At the racism summit I held, there were people outside football holding football to account for not being diverse and welcoming enough. They know the problem. It is time to change who is at the top, because that changes everything.

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab):
Racism and discrimination in football and other sports reflects society as a whole. Does the Minister agree that we need to be demanding more not only of ​our football and other sporting institutions, but of our leaders in the public and private sectors—and, dare I say it, in politics?

Mims Davies:
We all have a hugely important role to play. I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady. We want sport, politics and our whole country to be open, tolerant, diverse and equal. We all have a role in making that happen.

Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab):
May I draw the Minister’s attention to a game between UK Parliament FC and Show Racism the Red Card that will take place next month? I cannot promise to score four goals like I did in the last game I played for UK Parliament FC, but I hope it will be an opportunity for everyone to see that the whole House is united in fighting all forms of discrimination.

Mims Davies:
Four goals? Wow! The hon. Gentleman has now set himself up for that. And who would want to be the goalkeeper?

Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP):
As a gay Roman Catholic of Irish heritage who grew up in the west of Scotland, I am very much aware of some of the issues the Minister raises. My own local clubs, Clydebank, Yoker Athletic, Dumbarton and the Vale, have challenged the community to think differently over the past 20 years. Can the Minister tell me where we are on disability discrimination? There needs to be more done to challenge football clubs to give disabled fans and disabled footballers more access to the game.

Mims Davies:
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The experience of our disabled fans across the country is not equal, not fair and not good enough. The whole House is listening and the UK is watching: football, give everyone a fair experience, particularly our disabled fans.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD):
As a Palace season ticket holder, I spend many a happy Saturday afternoon chanting, “He’s just too good for you” about Wilf Zaha, as he runs rings around opposition defenders. Does the Minister agree that Wilf Zaha needs to be recognised not just for the wizardry he displays on the pitch, but for the work he does for Football for Peace to unite communities?

Mims Davies:
I think the fact that such players still feel they have to stand up like this shows the problem. The fact is that they do, and we absolutely have to support them, as the right hon. Gentleman does on the terraces. We should do that as they speak out.

Source: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2019-04-11/debates/53CBC73F-CFE0-49A3-8E73-21AE5A9CD7E2/DiscriminationInFootball