Anorak News | John Barnes says racism in football is a thought cime

John Barnes says racism in football is a thought cime

by | 28th, February 2012

JOHN Barnes wants to talk about racism in football to Daily Mail readers. Racism in football is so rare that a man in the crowd making a monkey noise can be arrested, and a player racially abusing an opponent leads to a ban that occupies the national news (see Liverpool’s Luis Suarez). Even the accusation of racial abuse can lead to a court case and a relatively successful England manager quitting before a big tournament (as with Chelsea’s John Terry).

Says Barnes:

When Stuart Pearce selects his England team to face Holland on Wednesday, it will reflect modern society.

Indeed, football reflects society. It does not, as David Cameron would have use believe, feature the white working leases leading society into race riots if the elite do not inflict control.

There will be a number of black players starting the game for their country, maybe six or seven, but so what? To me it no longer carries any significance.

So. Why mention it, then? Why count the number of black players? Do football fans notice the black faces anymore? Hasn’t hard work and the players’ skill smashed the colour bar?

I will not turn on the television and start counting the number of black faces in the team – we have moved beyond that to investigate deeper issues.

Only, John, you just counted them. Six or seven.

Ashley Cole, Micah Richards, Chris Smalling, Glen Johnson, Ashley Young, Theo Walcott, Daniel Sturridge, Fraizer Campbell and Danny Welbeck represent the black community, but to most people they are Saturday’s Heroes.

And now, John, you’ve named them. You’ve picked out the black faces. Why?

Right-minded supporters watch them play in the Barclays Premier League week in, week out and do not discriminate when they represent their club team.


Those barriers were broken down a long time ago and it is common for Premier League teams to field more black players than white, but does anyone notice? Probably not.

Well, you seem to notice, John. Maybe you’re not over it? Maybe you cannot yet see beyond colour?

To see Walcott or Richards walk out in an England shirt is not a cause to rejoice or celebrate because they are black — the fact it mirrors the modern game and our culture is far more eye-catching.

But their blackness – or mix-raced make-up – is what caught your eye, John.

John Barnes then goes on to talk about society at large:

Britain is culturally diverse, full of different nationalities and backgrounds being brought up in different circumstances. That is the real benefit of this England team, watching a cross-section of different communities and backgrounds uniting for one reason: they want to win a football match.

How does cultural diversity create a better England football team? England won the World Cup in 1966. The team was all white. Although there was a Cohen, and that’s a Jewish name. But football is a game with rules. A player’s cultural make-up makes not a jot of difference to how the game is played.

That is something England can be proud of, watching a cosmopolitan team take on a side who reached the 2010 World Cup final.

So. If Stuart Pearce or whoever is England manager does not pick a black face to play for England the country should be ashamed? Doesn’t a manager just pick his best XI? Is Barnes an advocate of quotas? And if he is, where are the Asian players and female Premier League managers?

Walk down any street in any town across the country and there will be people from different backgrounds and different cultures. When Viv Anderson became the first black player to represent England in 1978, of course it was a big thing, but that was a time when most of the people in the country were white.

They still are, John. It’s not a quota system. It’s about ability. Racism is about deny equal opportunuty. Are blacks denied an equal chance in football?

Attitudes were different. Black players were a relatively new phenomenon in English football and it took time to make a breakthrough. Since then, Paul Ince has captained England and, at various times, there have been more black players on the field than white. Most people will not even notice, all they want is to see a winning England team on the field.

But again, John Barnes notices.

Ultimately, when a top Premier League club, or even the England side, has a permanent black football manager, then it will take on more significance.

Or when there is a black Prime Minister. Or a black top Minister. Or a black member of the Royal Family. Or a black top judge. Or a black editor of natiaanl newspaper. If you want to find racism, look beyond football, John.

It is well known that black managers are not given as much time as white managers, but that is a question for the boardroom and a phenomenon I describe as ‘unconscious racism’.

John Barnes sees racism when a board appoints a black manager?

I do not believe in positive discrimination and the idea of giving black people interviews for jobs because they are black — that is discrimination in itself. The idea that a black man is less intelligent than someone who is white is perpetuated by society, but there has been a gradual change over the last 10 to 15 years.

For sure. Police are no longer openly racist, for example.

When I played for England I was one of the only black players in the squad, but I was in the team based on ability. I was easily distinguished by the colour of my skin, but that was the only difference between me and the other players.

Yep. Which is why football is one of the least likely places to find racism. You need to look for it. Barnes felt different. He might have noticed it more than most. The racism might be more in his mind that in reality.

Football is often seen as the solution to issues that affect society, but that is too simplistic and is often asking too much of the game’s authorities. The real issues are with the Government and the legislation that is passed to condemn racist behaviour. People have been stealing for hundreds of years and just because it is illegal, it does not stop people stealing.


I spent time with the Prime Minister last week discussing the issue in our sport and I am all in favour of better educational programmes to tackle the issue.

No need to re-educate. Just carry on. Doing and seeing are better than telling.

Just because it is a crime to be found guilty of making racist remarks at a football stadium, does it mean it is OK to be a silent racist instead? Of course not.

A silent racist? Racism can be thought crime? Is John advocating teaching us what to think? Are thoughts to be made illegal?

I have young children and they lead varied lives, building a social network of people from all walks of life. They are growing up in an era and at an age when they understand that is it not acceptable — or correct — to discriminate against people based on the colour of their skin.

And if you want to know how fair things are, just count the number of black faces…

Posted: 28th, February 2012 | In: Sports Comment | TrackBack | Permalink