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Equality is not all black and white

It was pretty common in the late 1970's and early 1980's for black players in the English leagues to be jeered and to cop monkey calls. The first really big name black players like Viv Anderson, Laurie Cunningham and Luther Blisset took it all and acheived success despite the absence of any legislation or affirmative action type system to give them any favours.

Here at the Kick Project, we obviously place great importance on racial equality in football and I greatly admire these players for overcoming the odds purely on the strength of character and talent. They all did a great service not just for football but for society in general.

Yet, discrimination still exists and it manifests in many forms throughout society in England, and elsewhere.

Gordon Taylor, boss of the English Professional Footballers' Association has called for a program to encourage black managers in the EPL.

While its true that there is a shortage of black managers at the top levels, I'm not sure affirmative action is the way to go.

For one, racial discrimination is a broad social issue in Britain, not just a football issue. As such, it is unlikely to be solved by tinkering with football management.

Secondly, my experience is that positive social change happens most often and most effectively when it is through education and attitude, not laws, rules or policy. When those first black players came through in the late 1970's, there was no decree that encouraged it; it was simply the result of an increasingly immigrant society - mainly from the Caribbean - leading to second generation homegrown black footballers. They were good enough, and the English football infrastructure was smart enough to know it and to bring them on.

Thirdly, black players I have known would rather be successful as footballers, not as black footballers. As such, they dont want to be seen to be on the receiving end of any kind of leg-up, even a slight one.

A final issue is why make an issue of black managers only? Why not more women? Or more Jews? Or more Pakistanis? Or more left-footers?

I'm all for forms of righting wrongs through positive discrimination when it is clear that vilification is embedded in the institutions of the state - as they were in South Africa. That is not the case in today's Britain. Whatever racial inequality that exists is the symptom of a wider and deeper social and cultural  issue.

Football, while an important cultural and social influence will not address the problem by pushing more black managers into the professional ranks. The problem is bigger than that.


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