Racism in Football
Racism in football and society in general is strongly discouraged and in recent years there have been various campaigns to encourage football clubs to adopt a zero tolerance approach to racist behaviour.
In England, the governing body of football is the Football Association and it aims to protect the interests of footballers not just from the UK but internationally too.
As football has become more globalised, one problem has persisted and has become increasingly evident over the years. Racism is a problem and one which is far from being defeated.
It has been around in football for many years and fans, players and team mates themselves have experienced racial abuse in one form or another.
Campaigns such as ‘Lets Kick Racism out of Football’ was developed to eliminate racist behaviour and attitudes from the sport and is aimed at fans and players.
The world football governing body FIFA also manages several campaigns to reduce and where possible eliminate racism in football through the implementation of their Fair Play strategy.
Governing Bodies in Football
The various governing bodies in football including the UEFA the FA and FIFA have the ability to instigate any investigation into a reports about racist abuse which are made by a fan or a footballer and they have the power to issue penalties that vary in severity if they find any racist behaviour.
When a footballer has been on the receiving end of racial abuse, in the first instance they should report to the appropriate governing body, allowing them to investigate the problem within the club.
It is a general rule that where a player experiences racial abuse the issue should addressed through the governing body rather than a court.
There have been many high profile cases relating to racism in football. Where complaints are made, the governing bodies can issue bans to footballers and fines.
Although the preferred route to deal with racist behaviour is through the governing body, it is possible to go to court. The defendant was handed a suspended sentence and ordered to pay a fine of 2,000 Euros.
Player v Player
If a footballer wishes to take a case to court against another player, for the conviction to be successful they must be able to prove that the racist remarks were made during a football game.
This can sometimes be difficult to prove, with one player’s word being used against the other.
Referees may have been in another area of the field to pass comment and other players are concentrating on the game rather than listening to comments. Nevertheless, as many football matches are now televised, it may be that a camera has captured the exchange and if it did, the footage can be presented to the court as proof of the incident. .
Once the court has considered all of the facts, if they agree with the information provided by the claimant, defendants may have to pay a fine and depending on the nature of the incident, could receive a custodial sentence. Any punishment for the defendant would set a clear precedent for what is classed as acceptable behaviour and decisions will have a direct impact on football as a sport.
In England and Wales there are various pieces of legislation which apply to racism in football including The Race Relations Act 1976.
The Race Relations Act 1976
Usually claims for racist abuse can be dealt with internally and there is no need to proceed to court. However, where a claim is heard in court in England or Wales, law within the Race Relations Act is often used. This is a piece of legislation which can be applied when an individual suffers racist abuse in England and Wales and it relates to all sectors, not just football.
Under Section 32 outlined in the Race Relations Act, vicarious liability cannot be found against a football club based on the actions of one or more footballers employed by the club. Section 32 of the legislation explains that anything carried out in the course of employment should be dealt with as being carried out by the employer as well irrespective of whether the employer consented to the behaviour or not.
Consequently, football clubs cannot be held accountable in this manner because they cannot control a footballer who walks on to a football pitch and displays racist behaviour.
Furthermore, the legislation in the Race Relations Act cannot make an employer such as a football club take disciplinary action in respect of racist abuse if an employee behaves in an unacceptable manner.
Often though clubs take a zero tolerance approach to racist behaviour and will take disciplinary action whether or not they are obliged to do so.
The Football Offences Act 1991
This legislation stated that an offence would be committed if racist or indecent chants are made at a designated football ground. In addition the various football governing bodies have implemented a range of steps to try and deal with the problem. The FA Ground Regulations explain that it is not acceptable to use racist language within a football stadium and can result in the individual being removed from the ground.
Club Stewards are responsible for identifying racist or discriminatory behaviour amongst the crowd and taking the appropriate action by removing the individual from the stadium.
In the Football League Customer Charter was created to ensure that players, officials and spectators of football should be protected from any form of discrimination. For a football club to monitor and take suitable action for racial abuse, stewards must be able to recognise, record and take action in certain situations.
It is the responsibility of the FA to define these standards and procedures that stewards should follow, so that swift action can be taken and abuse can be eliminated.
Programs such as ‘Show Racism the Red Card and other initiatives have been introduced to reduce and where possible eliminate racism from football. Although there are no specific laws that relate to racism in football, clubs, fans and the governing bodies of the football industry can work together to completely remove racist abuse and discrimination from football.
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This article was written by a member of the Expert Answers legal advice team. Expert Answers provides online legal advice on all aspects of UK Law to users in the United Kingdom.