English PFA refuses to run away from racism
Tuesday 31 July
Whilst the 2011/2012 season in the English Premier League will be remembered for its football entertainment, it was undeniably a difficult year for the English Professional footballers´ association PFA as the campaign was blighted by a series of high-profile ‘racial’ incidents.
In an interview with Telegraph Sport, PFA Chief Executive Gordon Taylor and Deputy Chief Executive Bobby Barnes reflect on a challenging season for the PFA.
Bobby Barnes acknowledged that the union has faced criticism from its own members who felt that that PFA did not do enough to support black players in the Suarez and Terry incidents this season.
'We speak to our members and are in communication all the time', said Barnes. 'But we can’t be confrontational. We have a responsibility and we have to impress upon all our membership and show we are worthy and capable of representing all of them. We have been around for 105 years and we’ve had crises before. We have to be big enough to accept and acknowledge there are things we can do better next time.'
'There is a mood out there. One of the things that’s coincided with it and created a perfect storm is the feeling among the black lads that whatever campaigns we back we have become complacent and backed away from the issue of racism. The feeling is that the box is ticked and that we’ve moved on to other things.'
However the PFA feels any suggestion of a breakaway union along racial lines would be a retrograde step, and has called upon all its members to pull together. 'Everything we do, the anti-racism message is in it', said Gordon Taylor. 'What is so disappointing in this last year is that it’s gone backwards.'
'If you have the issue of separation it will lead to a situation where you have three-quarters of the membership who are white and they will be saying, ‘Let them deal with it.’ It will only work if we all move forward together.'
'People have to remember we’re not a disciplinary body. It’s like being a father when you have two sons at war with each other. But we agree the process. If [misconduct] is racist then it’s double the penalty. That was our initiative. That’s quite a strong message.'
The fallout and protests to an eight-match ban handed to Liverpool's Luis Suarez from the player, the club and the fans, certainly seemed to support Taylor’s statement.
PFA Chairman Clarke Carlisle, has echoed Taylor’s sentiments on Twitter, answering a question if there is a need for a Black Footballers’ Association he responded: 'Definitely not. It would instantly define "us" and "them". The union is more than proportionately diverse, with good channels of communication. To move forward we need to hear the different voices and opinions at the same table.'
With recent events pitching members against each other, the union has had to maintain a delicate balancing act, but stresses that there is big support role to play for players who feel they are victims of racism.
Commenting on his own experience as a player, Barnes added: 'We were the ‘turn the other cheek generation’ and I am ashamed of some of things I put up with. I had all sorts. Bananas, everything. But we must not forget we’ve come a long way.'
'We have to change things in the dugouts, the boardrooms and the corridors of power.'
'Where these issues come up we’re dealing with a different generation [the players]. These are very wealthy young men where everything happens for them now.'
'There can be a sense of frustration where people don’t see the fruits of the work in the background but they see the incidents in the foreground.'
Commenting on the Terry case, Barnes stated: 'Rightly or wrongly - and I believe wrongly - there’s a perception we should have taken sides. But we had to let the legal process run its course.'
The PFA now believes it is for football clubs to change the prevailing culture. However it will inevitably be a rocky ahead, not least when Suarez is called upon to shake Evra’s hand and Anton Ferdinand Terry’s when their respective clubs meet in the Premier League.
Reflecting on recent events, Taylor added: 'It’s festered and in future I feel the FA has to grasp the nettles and deal with it quickly because that is healthy. Do we now agree no handshakes? No, because I think that is running away from it.'
'Before the season starts there’ll be bad blood between the clubs and the supporters and we need an overt show. We have to sweeten the atmosphere. We know there’s a troublesome feeling and yet we can’t let this issue divide us. No other nationality in the world has the amount of colours and creeds in it that England does.'
'I’d encourage all our members to show respect for their fellow professionals, the opposition, the referee and the supporters.'
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