Almost 3 In 4 Brits Agree Racism Is A Serious Issue In Football

The Euros only highlighted how deep-rooted this problem is, particularly within the sport.
Bukayo Saka of England takes a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement before a UEFA Euro 2020 Championship match
Bukayo Saka of England takes a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement before a UEFA Euro 2020 Championship match
Eddie Keogh - The FA via Getty Images

A new poll has found 72 percent of Brits agree racism is a major problem within football following the Uefa Euros 2020.

Anti-fascism and anti-racism group, Hope Not Hate, also found that 66 percent of Conservative voters agreed despite the mixed messaging from the Tory government over the issue.

The campaigners looked into the public’s attitude towards racism in the sport after it became a prominent issue in July.

Prejudiced attitudes overwhelmed the internet when England lost the Euro 2020 final to Italy, 3-2, in a penalty shootout.

Although this was the first time the England team had reached a major final since 1966, some fans immediately used Twitter to berate the three players of colour who had missed their penalties.

Player – and prominent anti-poverty activist – Marcus Rashford’s mural was even defaced in Manchester.

Tributes were laid out to Marcus Rashford after his mural was defaced in Manchester
Tributes were laid out to Marcus Rashford after his mural was defaced in Manchester
Craig Foy - SNS Group via Getty Images

Anti-racist views soon prevailed, with many members of the public taking to social media to express their fury at the racist abuse Rashford, Jason Sancho and Bukayo Saka received online.

Five people were arrested for targeting the three players too.

It was not long before the incident ended up reflecting back onto the Tory government as critics pointed out how poorly they had handled the issue at the beginning of the championship.

Boris Johnson and Priti Patel were criticised for their handling of the racist abuse aimed at footballers
Boris Johnson and Priti Patel were criticised for their handling of the racist abuse aimed at footballers
YUI MOK via Getty Images

How the Tories mishandled the serious problem

In the aftermath of the European Championship final, prime minister Boris Johnson chimed in and said: “This England team deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media.”

He added: “To those who have been directing racist abuse, I say, ‘shame on you and I hope you will crawl back under the rock from which you emerged’.”

But Johnson had found himself in some hot water prior to the final game, when there had been an ongoing debate over whether players should take the knee in an antiracist gesture before each game’s kickoff.

Spectators at matches had actually booed players when they took part in the international move.

Then Johnson’s spokesperson refused to directly tell the public to stop booing.

They said: “We’d want all England fans to be respectful in any football match and as I have said, he [Johnson] expects the right of those who want to peacefully protest in this way.”

Leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer said Johnson’s words showed he had “failed the test of leadership” by refusing to condemn the booing fans.

Home secretary Priti Patel also found herself in the spotlight, having dodged a question on whether she would boo the England team herself a few weeks earlier.

Explaining why she did not agree with taking the knee, she said: “I just don’t support people participating in that type of gesture politics.”

When Patel then condemned the “vile racist abuse” on social media after the Euros final, England player Tyrone Mings took to social media and claimed she could not “stoke the fire” by criticising “gesture politics” and then “pretend to be disgusted” when acts of racism take place.

Still, Hope Not Hate found two-thirds of Conservative voters did believe there was a problem of racism within football.

The poll also suggested eight in 10 people understand that taking the knee is about raising awareness of racism in football and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

More than half of respondents also noted ministers were wrong to say fans should be permitted to boo players taking the knee, including 49 percent of Conservative voters.

Why is this significant?

Hope Not Hate’s CEO Nick Lowles said: “Our polling shows that there is lots to celebrate as the success of Gareth Southgate and the England team in highlighting these issues has created a rallying cry against racism in football, and cemented people’s beliefs that more needs to be done to tackle the problem.”

The England men’s team manager, Gareth Southgate, has been widely praised for his progressive approach to social issues and for encouraging his team to raise awareness of racism in society.

He was quick to defend his players after the final and described the abuse as “unforgivable”.

Almost two-thirds of the respondents told Hope Not Hate that footballers should be involved in social issues including campaigns against racism or free school meals, the cause which pushed Rashford into the spotlight last year.

Shaista Aziz, a journalist and anti-racism campaigner, also helped spark an anti-racist petition the morning after the Euros 2020 final.

The online campaign called on the government and the Football Association (FA) to work together and ban racists from football for life.