Convergent Journalism 1

by Andy Robinson

Over the past week, discrimination within football has reared its ugly head yet again in England. The issue came back to the forefront after a small group of Chelsea fans refused a black man entry to the Metro in Paris while singing “we’re racist…and that’s the way we like it”. Similar themed chants could be heard throughout London St Pancras that night as the same travelling fans returned from their 1-1 draw with Paris St Germain on the Eurostar. The suspects have now been identified by British Transport Police after analysing CCTV footage and the information has been passed on to the Metropolitan Police.

The club itself have issued life bans to the fans involved, a very suitable punishment for the offence. As a football club you don’t want these criminals associated with your club and to disallow them entry to football matches disallows them a platform to portray their hatred upon. Some football supporters seem to believe the sport offers people a get out of jail free card to racism and an excuse for inexcusable behaviour. I highly doubt a lot of the fans convicted would have the confidence and stupidity to carry out the same act walking down the street as a normal person, away from the football scene. After the incident, the regional manager of Show Racism The Red Card for London borough, Steve Goodsall said in a statement “We educate thousands of young people aged between eight and eighteen on the dangers of racism and other form of education”. This focus on the next generation is essential to rid racism of football and society in general as no one is born a racist; the hatred is developed within them as they grow as a person. In this attached audio file, I spoke to the Show Racism The Red Card Head Office about the emotional toll of racism on the victim's daily life and about the Chelsea/Paris Metro incident.

Chelsea are infamous for this kind of adverse behaviour according to Home Office statistics, as they have had the most arrests for racist chanting across the whole of the last thirteen seasons (since football arrest statistics began being compiled). However, as you can see from the graphs on racism arrests last season  and racism arrests over the past thirteen seasons that I have compiled, it appears racism in football is being tackled well after statistics reveal that last season the number of arrests for racist or indecent chanting reached a record low.

The shocking Paris Metro situation was mocked in a viral video that left the Internet chuckling. The parody was made by a few rival West Ham fans before their derby with Tottenham Hotspur, in which two white gentleman happily welcome a black man onto the train, comedically friendly and over embracing.

However, these West Ham fans setting an example were left contradicted and embarrassed after the game as it later appeared that a minority of West Ham fans were guilty of anti-Semitic chanting towards Spurs fans. Most Spurs fans aren’t actually Jewish, with the chants being aimed at the clubs Jewish heritage and the related nickname "Yid". This comes at a time when according to the former chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, anxiety among British Jews is at an “all time high”, with some “too scared to even walk to the shops” following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris at the start of the year.  West ham warned fans before the match of its “zero tolerance policy to any form of discrimination” yet this was not enough for it to be prevented. Kick It Out reported the incident to the British Transport Police who stated that these events “were not isolated incidents” and they will treat them “very seriously”.

Accredited international football journalist Tancredi Palmeri praised the footballing authorities in England but condemned fans, tweeting “There isn’t more racism in Italian football than English … when things happen, they act”. As a journalist based in Italy, one of the most infamous countries in Europe for racism, he has encountered many occurrences of the crime at matches. The tweet came after more fan trouble occurred this week as travelling Feyenoord fans clashed with riot police, destroying the Spanish Steps and the Old Boat fountain of Rome before their Europa League tie with AS Roma. Also in the Europa League, UEFA have issued a stadium ban to Steaua Bucharest for two matches after they revealed a racist banner, the third instance of racism from their fans this season alone.

My own experience of racism in football can be read in this blog post, where I explain the discrimination I witnessed during my three years as a season ticket holder at Brighton and Hove Albion.

You can also read an editorial I wrote last year on how racism should be tackled. I’m glad to see that the responsible bodies have proceeded with a lot of the actions I discussed in the article and are now dealing with Racism in a far more appropriate manner.

Although the issue of racism from an outside view may appear as merely supressed and tucked under the rug as it reappears time and time again, a certain amount of commendation should be given to the governing bodies and organisations fighting against it. The FA have toughened up by introducing stricter punishments and Kick It Out have introduced a new app which allows witnesses to discreetly report crimes at the touch of a button. We as a progressive society are dealing with the issue fantastically as statistics prove, and although this week may have been a negative week for English football, we should not let this anomaly discredit all the great work that continues to be carried out on and off the pitch.

The Equality of Football