Euro 2012 & the Glass House of British Society


Last night, England played its first game of the Euro 2012 tournament. Leading up to this tournament there has been much talk of how Black players and citizens would be subject to the persecution of their racist hosts. The Panorama programme exposed shocking levels of racism within the host nations, and the monkey chants toward Black players during Holland’s practice sessions a few days ago demonstrates that those concerns are all too real.

It is right that Panorama made their programme, and that discussion ensued highlighting the failings of these societies, especially when gifted with such prizes as hosting a Euro football tournament. However, whilst we focus on the issues of other countries, we should also all keep our eye firmly on the ball when looking at ourselves, and our failings. Though we have made great strides towards equality and representation of BME people in both football and society, it should never be forgotten that we still have a long way to go.

Before watching England’s first Euro 2012 group game I had spent considerable time considering whether to watch it or not. I struggled with the prospect of supporting a team whose starting eleven would include a player on a charge of racial abuse. I’ve always been passionate about my national team, and I’ve always been passionate about equality. This time the two have come head to head.

I chose to watch the game. The Terry-Ferdinand case is yet to be heard and ultimately, I feel a person is innocent until proven guilty. Jurisprudence is one of the great things of British society, even though sometimes the charge is emotive. Equality should apply in all areas, including the right to innocence until proven otherwise.

However, since the Terry charge there have been many domestic incidents in football that show that in this country we are only a short way down a long road - cases include the Suarez - Evra incident, racial abuse of Fabrice Muamba and Stan Collymore on Twitter and England player Micah Richards was forced to quit his Twitter account over the racist abuse he received. Even the ongoing case with Terry and Ferdinand has further highlighted the issue of racism with Ferdinand reporting ‘extreme’ racial abuse from the terraces at Chelsea since reporting the incident. These are just a few well documented examples, the more you scratch the more you will find.

I hope England do well at Euro 2012, there is much to be proud of. Last night, our team’s starting eleven featured six Black players with eight in the squad, and of course, Joleon Lescott scored England’s only goal. The balance of racial identity in our squad shows we have achieved much, but the many incidents this year alone in our own country shows we have much more to achieve.

It is good to see programmes such as Panorama being made, because it shows that in our country issues of race and equality are important. However, we should not think that because we highlight the issues of other societies, that ours is free from criticism, or free from examination. Sometimes this can be overlooked.

It is easy to point the finger elsewhere, and thereby absolve yourself by way of accusation. But the true measure of a person, and indeed a nation is the way in which you measure yourself, not others. And on that we are still coming up short. Let’s focus on educating the world, but let’s focus on doing that through example, as well through lecture.

Ian Tomkins

Archived Comments

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Agree. Complacency is the root of all evil and whilst we should point out the rabid racism of some people in Ukraine and Poland - we must still remember the many cases of racism in football in the UK, and elsewhere.

Thought provoking piece proving there is still a lot to be done

Interesting article. What intrigues me, if that is the correct term, about the Terry/Anton Ferdinand case is why it was deemed a judicial matter when the Suarez/Evra situation was dealt with as, in effect, a footballing matter. Suarez is subsequently banned for 6+ matches and Terry is allowed to continue playing. Racism is racism and surely both cases should have been dealt with through legal channels right? Where is the consistency? Also, why on earth is this case taking so long? John Terry is, by all accounts, a nasty piece of work who thinks he is above everything, but in some quarters there is a suggestion that there is an attempt to ‘sweep’ the issue under the carpet. This cannot be allowed to happen.

The saddest part for me last night was during the Ukraine/Sweden match when a ‘person’ in the crowd was highlighted, for a good 5-10 seconds, wearing a ‘black mask’. Obviously the individual was a half-wit, but what saddened me more was the fact that I didn’t see anyone rushing to deal with him (neither stewards or fellow supporters). I thought that there had been a statement that any racism would be dealt with severely, possibly by abandoning the matches – is this an indication that as long as there are no black players on the pitch it is ‘ok, because no-one is offended???’

Terry's presence disgusted me

While I agree that jurisprudence is important, I could not help but be sickened by Terry's inclusion in the game.

What does this say about Hodgson's decision and his view on equality??? Either Ferdinand should have been in or none of them.

Response to Brad's comment and Ukraine Sweden game

There actually was a Black player that plays for Sweden - but your point is right. Even if there weren't any players - racist behaviour is unacceptable - pretty pathetic behaviour really wearing the mask. Other fans have their role to show it should not be tolerated. Looking forward to see how we get on - Come on England!

Nice article!

Nice article!

Great piece

For once in my life, I enjoyed reading about football!