Racial reckoning in boardrooms and dugouts as EPL resumes

Racial reckoning in boardrooms and dugouts as EPL resumes

When the time came to vote on restarting the Premier League, no black chief executives or chairmen from the English clubs were involved. There aren’t any across the 20 teams, nor in the leadership of the world’s richest league.

As the league’s 100-day pandemic-enforced shutdown ends on Wednesday, a competition that prides itself on attracting multicultural talent from across the world on the field, is facing a racial reckoning.

There are owners or chief executives of Asian, Indian or Middle Eastern heritage. But the lack of black leaders across the Premier League has appeared jarring amid a groundswell of activism by players demanding an end to inequalities, roused by the brutal police killing of George Floyd in the United States.

“It raises all that exclusion, inequality, injustice,” Paul Elliott, the former Chelsea player now chairing the English Football Association’s Inclusion Advisory Board, told The Associated Press. “It’s been that bridge, that catalyst for the injustice, the unconscious bias, given the popularity of the participants of football being around 30% black and very few in the administrative, executive and boardroom areas.”

Players of all races have already taken a knee as entire squads at training grounds across England. Over the next week, they will take to the field at Premier League stadiums wearing “Black Lives Matter” instead of their names on the back of jerseys.

“The knee and the solidarity behind that will eventually phase out,” Elliott said. “But the problem is still going to be here with us. Then it’s about a cogent, coherent strategy across football — from the touchline to the boardroom. There has to be a whole reset and accountability.”

Especially in a season when a Premier League game was paused for the first time for warnings about racial abuse in the stands when Tottenham played Chelsea in December.

The toxic elements of football fandom were highlighted outside the British Parliament on Saturday during scuffles featuring far-right activists with police while claiming to be guarding historical monuments that have been targeted recently by anti-racism protesters for their links to slavery and British colonialism. On what should have been the opening weekend of the European Championship, which was postponed due to the pandemic, football chants were adopted by hooligans in the disorder.

“The only disease right now is the racism that we are fighting,” England and Manchester City star Raheem Sterling said last week in a landmark interview with a BBC political show. “Just like the pandemic, we want to find a solution to stop it.”

For that to happen in the national sport, the symbolism of on-field campaigning will somehow need to lead to substantive changes that provide a pathway to more diverse boardrooms, dugouts — and media tribunes which are dominated by white men. There is only one black manager in the Premier League — Nuno Espírito Santo — at Wolverhampton and no black referees.

Elliot’s presence of the FA’s main board shows how the English game’s governing body has already acted on the need to be more diverse as part of a wider strategy.

“Football has to realize,” Elliot said, “with a diverse workforce the decision-making is more effective.”

The rest of Europe has to heed the advice.

Germany’s football leadership espouses the virtues of diversity, but all 19 members of the presidential board are white and only one is a woman. The Bundesliga has no black coaches and black players can face racial abuse.

It does not take long to be rehabilitated. Schalke chairman Clemens Tönnies caused outrage early in the season with racist comments about Africans. He eventually stepped down for three months but has since resumed his role.

In Spain, La Liga president Javier Tebas was bemused to be asked about the need for greater diversity.

“You said our board should be changed to have more black people? Racial diversity has to be in line with the structure of your country,” he said on a video call with international media. “If in Spanish society we had more black people, obviously they would be represented in our organization.”

The approach, disregarding the need for inclusion, means the black stars on the field in Spain lack representation in positions of power. The players take it on themselves to advocate for racial equality. When Marcelo scored for Real Madrid on Sunday, the Brazilian put his left knee down and raised a right fist in the air.

It is the type of campaigning gesture that will be welcomed when Europe’s biggest league resumes this week.

“The league will support players who ‘take a knee’ before or during matches,” the Premier League said. “The Premier League believes there is no room for racism, anywhere.”

___

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

___

AP Sports Writer Ciaran Fahey in Berlin contributed to this report.

Rob Harris, The Associated Press

racism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Temporary COVID-19 testing sites coming to Wetaskiwin and Ponoka

The Wetaskiwin location will open Oct. 23, 2020 and the Ponoka location will open Oct. 29.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City and County of Wetaskiwin reporting active cases

Both the City of Wetaskiwin and County of Wetaskiwin have active cases.

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owners found

Father and son found him while out for a walk at JJ Collett

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

From l-r., first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden on stage at the conclusion of the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Trump, Biden fight over the raging virus, climate and race

Republican president declared the virus, which killed more than 1,000 Americans on Thursday alone, will “go away.”

JJ Collett Natural Area Foundation held its AGM on Oct. 19 at the Ponoka Legion. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
De-listing Alberta parks creates ‘risk’ for coal mining: CPAWS

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society speaks at JJ Collett AGM

(File photo)
Ponoka’s seen rise in relationship ‘disharmony,’ domestic violence during COVID-19

While there has been an increase in files, not all have required charges to be laid

ACC President and CEO Ken Kobly spoke to Ponoka Chamber of Commerce members over Zoom on Oct. 20. (Image: screenshot)
Alberta chambers are ‘411’ to members, government: ACC president

Changes to government supports, second wave and snap election

Most Read