A week or so ago, I blogged about the issue of racism in the wake of the awful events in Serbia and quoted quite a lengthy passage from my own book Kicking Off.
As a consequence, I’ve actually been reading various sections of it over the last few days and am increasingly astonished –and not a little saddened- by how much of it is still current.
Now one of the charges I make in the book is that Kick Racism and the various anti-racism incarnations allied to football were starting to sit back on their laurels and had instead, become little more than a gravy train onto which all kinds of people were jumping.
Ironically, I was attacked fairly strongly at the time for saying that and yet here we are, over eight years later having the very same discussion. Although this time the accusation is actually being made by the players as opposed to some know-it-all git of an author and as a result is quite rightly receiving widespread support.
And it’s not just Kick Racism who have fallen into the post-John Terry/Serbia spotlight either. Thanks to players such as Jason Roberts and the Ferdinand’s, both the FA and the PFA are in the process of being given a massive and long overdue kick up the arse for their clear failure to take the matter of racism as seriously as they should have been in recent years.
This is all good and very positive stuff. We as the nation which gave the game to the world have a duty to champion the ideal of unity in football not just on our own shores, but across the globe. After all, we can’t rely on anyone else to do it. One only need look at the derisory fines metered out by UEFA and FIFA to see that. Don’t get me started on Blatter.
Yet amongst all this positive stuff has appeared a huge potential negative and that is the idea of a Black Players Union.
Now, I’m sure there are very good reasons why this is a good idea although in truth I have no idea what they might be –personally I have this pegged as little more than some oily little chancers idea to make an awful lot of money and raise his profile to previously unimaginable levels. However, that’s another debate altogether- but there are two very powerful ones why it is an extremely bad one.
The first is the obvious one and it’s the case that everyone is fixating on. For as I stated above, anti-racism is about unity. So if unification is the ultimate aim, why bring in something that by its very definition is divisive?
The second reason is less obvious and it’s certainly not one that’s been mentioned anywhere that I’ve seen, heard or read. That is the kick in the teeth it would give to the fans.
Because in the battle against racism at football, the foot soldiers are those who sit or stand on the terraces. We after all, are the ones who support, complain, highlight and when required, confront. Without us, there would be no Kick Racism out of Football. That is a fact.
And the reason we get involved is because we’re all in it together. Fans, players, clubs, media, everyone. A black players union would smash that idea at a stroke because they would be going it alone and we would suddenly be fighting not with them, not even alongside them, but for them. That puts a very different slant on things.
But just as importantly, it would infer that all of our efforts have not only been wasted, but are unappreciated. That might sound dramatic, but it’s certainly how I feel and I know from my inbox, Facebook and Twitter accounts that I’m not the only one.
Yes, there are problems and it is to their credit that a umber of black players are standing up and speaking out. But their fight is not with us, it’s with the union and the authorities and it’s a fight that they must take to them under the same banner as the one we fight under.
Because if they don’t, it could very easily backfire. Not only quickly, but badly.
Kicking off is just 99p to download on both Amazon and iTunes. Which is, I have to say, something of a bargain!
The media and police claim the battle against football hooligans and racists has been all but won. Those who study the culture of football know only too well that behind the squeaky clean corporate image being fed to the public lie some dark and unpalatable truths.
Compiled by best-selling author, screenwriter and world-renowned hooliganism expert Dougie Brimson, KICKING OFF picks up the debate where BARMY ARMY left it – Euro 2000 and the horrific murders of two Leeds United fans in Turkey.
In his own uncompromising style Brimson exposes the truth and paints a disturbing picture of what lies ahead for the game if the culture of hate, racism and violence remains unchecked.
The other evening, whilst taking part in a late-night radio debate on the disgraceful scenes in Serbia, I was asked if I thought we would ever see an end to racism in the UK. My answer was an instant and resounding no. I then added that my thinking was based on the simple fact that we had never had a free and open debate on the issues of racism, immigration and multiculturalism in our country and more importantly, would never be allowed to have one.
When asked why not, I made the point that in my opinion it was because the powers that be were afraid of the answers the vast majority of the population would provide. I was cut off almost instantly. As proof of my point, that’s as conclusive as it gets.
Now let me quote something to you. It’s lengthy, but bare with it.
Racism and multiculturalism have become two of the key issues affecting the way we live but by allowing the anti-racist and politically driven lobby groups to occupy the moral high ground, we [as a society] have become terrified of openly questioning anything relating to race for fear that we will be labelled as racist. A fear that is especially prevalent amongst the white Anglo-Saxon and Christian communities who lest we forget, actually form the majority of the population.
As a consequence, they [the liberal-left and the anti-racist groups] have been allowed to get away with things that they really should not be allowed to get away with. We may laugh at the stupidity of banning piggy banks or replacing the seven dwarves with the seven gnomes but in their own way, each act of petty political correctness drives the wedge between the various ethnic groups ever deeper.
More importantly, by suppressing a much needed and long overdue debate about the impact these issues have on us all, we as a nation are clearly storing up huge problems. If only because ignorance breeds fear and fear breeds resentment which could, potentially, play right into the hands of extreme political groups. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that the implications of that would stretch far wider than the turnstile or the playing field.
However, racism is an issue which not only should be talked about it is one which we must talk about. Dialogue is after all, the only way we, as a society will ever understand things and we have to do that if we are ever to be rid of this most shameful of scourges. That will only happen when we are brave enough to allow everyone to have their say and more importantly, listen to what is being said. Tragically, even though we live in a supposedly free society, I cannot ever see that happening. Indeed, there is something to be said for the idea that if Enoch Powell achieved one thing with his infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, it was to suppress forever any chance of anyone having a free and open debate about either immigration or race in Britain.
Ironically, the area of society that has done more than any other to combat racism in Britain is football. In recent weeks I have witnessed racist abuse being hurled by blacks, whites and Asians in shops, pubs and even at a motorway service station yet I can count on three fingers the number of racist incidents I have encountered inside a stadium in this country since I began writing in 1996 and two of those have been at non-league games. And I’m not alone. Even Thierry Henry has been quoted as saying that he has not heard any racist abuse inside a stadium since he came to play in this country yet still we routinely hear football being slaughtered. Why? Surely the fact that on the rare occasions an incident of football related racial abuse takes place here in England it is roundly and swiftly condemned by all parties is proof of how serious this issue has been taken. Similarly, the fury with which we react to abuse targeted at English players abroad must indicate how far we have come as well as how far others lag behind.
I’m not saying that we should sit on our laurels, but we shouldn’t be so self critical either. As fans, we should be proud that for the most part, the only colour we care about is the colour of the shirt and we should celebrate the fact that people come from all over the world to play the game here free of the abuse and intimidation seen all too often in Spain, Italy, Germany and most of Eastern Europe. We should also be thrilled that so many black players represent us at international level but equally, we should enjoy a smug smile of satisfaction that these days we don’t even really notice. All we actually see is eleven proud Englishmen and that in itself says everything to me.
That’s an extract from Kicking Off which I wrote in 2004 and to me, it’s sadly still as relevant now as it was back then. However, if there is a silver lining to the horrific events in Serbia this week it has been to highlight just how far we as a nation have come in the drive to defeat racism and as I wrote in the piece, no section of society has fought more valiantly than football. Although let’s be honest, as the John Terry affair has proven, whilst the fans continue to do their bit there is much to be said for the idea that football’s administration needs to up its game not least with an ounce to two of consistency.
But there is still much work to be done and the great game can’t do everything, nor should it even try. For sure as we saw only too clearly this summer, sport can be a fantastic unifying force but if we are ever to see a resolution to the cancer of racism in our nation and legitimately sit upon the moral high ground where we so richly deserve to be, it can only happen if we, as individuals, can freely and honestly discuss all of the issues associated with it.
The last I heard, this is a free country. So why can’t we?
Just a quick note to let you know that Amazon have now price matched most of my titles with iTunes so that the bulk, including The Art of Fart, are now just 99p. The only exceptions are The Crew which is free and Top Dog and Billy’s Log which will set you back £1.99.
So if you’re missing a book, now is as good a time as any!
The other day I sat down at my laptop determined to write a long and rambling blog.
I had the subject matter all sorted in my head, the rough text I wanted to write, the tone I wanted to use and even the conclusion I wanted to reach. Unusually for me (sic) I had even done some research and had various quotations cut, pasted and highlighted in yellow at the top of the blank page ready to be used as and when I needed them.
Even as I sat down, I knew this was going to be a controversial read of the type for which blogging was invented. It is after all the perfect tool for those of us who are keen to get our opinions out into the public domain but who are not clever or lucky enough to have a newspaper or magazine column through which to do it. But then, as I prepared to construct the perfect opening line, it happened. A little ‘ding’ went off in my right ear. Well it’s not actually a little ding. If you’ve ever heard an old fashioned typewriter as the rail nears the end of the page, that’s what I hear.
And it’s always my right ear. I don’t know why as it’s actually the weaker of my two ears, but this is a largely irrelevant point. The important point is that the ding is a warning. A warning that I’m either about to write or say something which either I shouldn’t say at all or which I need to consider very, very carefully.
Quite why this happens is a mystery but be it sixth sense, guardian angel or simply something which happens with old(er) age, as someone who is prone to letting their opinions get the better of them, I’m bloody glad it does. It has certainly saved me from dropping myself in serious shit on more than one occasion.
Not because I don’t necessarily subscribe to whatever it is I was/am about to write, but because I have learnt the hard way that in these politically correct times there are lines one should be wary of crossing. If the media fascists can bring down fabulous (if contentious) radio journalists like Jon Gaunt and James Whale for making on-air statements which ‘they’ considered unacceptable, just think what they could do to someone like me who barely registers on the media radar yet is still has a desire to make an impact with a wider audience.
Make no mistake, it’s incredibly difficult to forge a career in the media but it’s the easiest thing in the world to kill one.
It could of course, be argued that this is cowardly. And that maybe, as someone who is known for having what could be considered controversial opinions about certain subjects I should actually be more forthright in the things I have to say. After all, as anyone who has ever read one of my books will know I’ve never really been that concerned about what people think of me and I’m more than happy to debate my opinions when challenged. Furthermore, like it or not I do have a profile of sorts and for some reason there seems to be plenty of people interested in the things I have to say. Some would even argue that as a writer, I have a duty to the people who have purchased any of my books and who have subscribed to some of the opinions I have put into print, to drive forward and help right some of the things I complain so vehemently against.
To be honest, I have a lot of sympathy with that. In my book Rebellion I made the point that I was humbled by the passion shown by some of the people I’d featured in that book, inspired as they had been, to battle an injustice. And let’s face it, there are more than enough issues impacting on football never mind our once glorious country which demand a response. Not a response from someone mindful of their profile or their career, but from someone who merely has something to say and feels the need to say it. Which brings me back to the matter of the aforementioned ding.
You see reading back over my notes, I can see why I need to be wary but a big part of me is also saying ‘fuck it. Just write it and be damned’. And for once, whilst I’m going to give it nod of thanks, I’m going to disregard the ding and dive straight in.
I have, in the past and on more occasions than I care to remember, been accused of being racist. Often theses accusations will be based simply on the fact that I have a shaved head, am fat and follow football. Three things which make me the stereotypical right-wing thug so beloved of the media. Others factor in the fact that I write about hooliganism, have written about the extreme right-wing or am a fan of Lady Thatcher and a lifelong Tory voter (not any more mind, but that’s another story) to reinforce the notion that my politics are firmly in the neo-Nazi camp.
This is of course, total bollocks and I’m not even going to waste the battery on my laptop trying to defend myself because I don’t need to. If you need to know where I sit in the political arena and especially with regard to racism, read my book Kicking Off because it’s all in there.
The problem is that for many people the fear of being accused of holding racist views is a fear too far and even being linked with someone who might is regarded as a high risk (ask Ron Atkinson). Equally, Like all fascists (and that is what they are as far as I’m concerned) the supposed anti-fascist brigade know that fear is their greatest weapon and the racism accusation card is the H-Bomb in their arsenal. One they are quite happy to throw around seemingly willy-nilly because they know that no one would dare challenge them.
The consequence of this of course, is that it stifles debate which is undoubtedly the whole idea. However, whilst researching both my book ‘Kicking Off’ and the forthcoming movie about Afghanistan, I encountered vicious racism aimed at the black community from within the black community, even more aimed at Muslims from Sikh’s (and visa versa!) and plenty aimed from within pretty much every ethnic group directed at us ‘white’ folk yet we rarely if ever hear of that in the mainstream media. Does that make it any less illegal? Of course not. So how can it be allowed to continue?
The authorities, the media and especially the anti-racism brigade would argue that this is not the case but this is clearly untrue and we’ve recently had as cast iron proof as you can possibly get.
Consider this; an England player is sitting at Wembley during an international fixture and tweets a ‘joke’ about the visiting fans and the idea that the game is actually an immigration trap and the stadium is surrounded by officers who are ready to sweep up anyone who shouldn’t be in the country after the game. When he is challenged, he complains that it was merely a ‘joke’ and that people should have a sense of humour.
Now, suppose said ‘joke’ had been tweeted by Wayne Rooney for example. Can you imagine the reaction? The press would have gone apoplectic whilst the anti-racism and anti-fascist groups would have been screaming for his head. And quite rightly too.
But supposing the ‘joke’ had been tweeted by one of England’s black players. Should the reaction be any different? Of course it shouldn’t, but it was. For this is exactly what the odious Carlton Cole (and there’s a bloke you wouldn’t want your daughter bringing home!) did during the game against Ghana.
Fair play to the FA (and there’s a sentence I never thought I would write) who immediately hit Cole with a charge of improper conduct but where was the clamour for his head in the press? Where were the usual rabid statements from ‘Kick Racism out of football’ or the various organisations who only recently were all over the press screaming blue murder because there have been no ethnic minorities in ‘Midsummer Murders’ or salivating at the realisation that Zenit St Petersburg have never signed a black player?
They were nowhere, that’s where and that was totally and utterly wrong. Racism is abhorrent in all its forms but guilt is not the sole preserve of the Anglo-Saxon community and if you are genuinely serious about combating it then that simple statement has to be fundamental to your approach because until it is, not only can you never actually solve it but you have absolutely no right to preach to anyone else about how they act and what they do in their own country.
If ever there was a subject about which this country needs a free and open debate it is the issue of racism. For until we have that debate, we cannot possibly have a level playing field and that is all anyone really wants. It’s also what this country desperately needs because until every citizen irrespective of colour, religion or background feels confident that should they have cause for a race related complaint then it will be treated fairly, justly and equally, all you are doing is storing up more and more resentment and an increasing sense of unfairness and intolerance. The sad reality of that is that such feelings can and do only ever lead in one direction. Toward the right.
And who in their right mind would want that.
Kicking Off, how hooliganism and racism are killing football, is available via amazon. Just click right here.