On the eve of one of the most important days in the history of women’s football in England, the game’s governing body is yet again mired in a discrimination related scandal. A Championship club chairman is facing an investigation for making racist and antisemitic statements whilst defending his decision to appoint Malky Mackay, a manager already under review by the FA for his own sexist, racist, homophobic, and antisemitic remarks in emails and text messages.
The question is, will the FA find the courage to take action in these cases or will they, once again, fail to tackle misconduct on the part of senior figures in the game?
In the programme for tomorrow morning’s ‘Just a Ball Game’? England Fans FC match, ahead of the England v Germany women’s fixture at Wembley, I have written on the need for football supporters to speak out and demand that the Football Association charge everyone, including leaders at club, league or FA level, who commits discriminatory misconduct.
“As a Patron of ‘Just a Ball Game’? it is a privilege to have been invited to join you at this fans’ match before today’s historic game at Wembley, the first time that England Women have been allowed to play on the hallowed turf of our national stadium.I encourage everyone who cares about making football truly inclusive to email Greg Dyke on firstname.lastname@example.org, demanding that the FA tackles prejudice at every level of the game.
My own current involvement in football administration came partly as a result of following the GB women’s team at each of their fixtures during the London 2012 Olympic Games. Throughout that tournament I pestered the FA’s then chairman and chief executive to build the momentum created around the women’s game in the Olympics, including holding a follow-up England match at Wembley.
Whilst it has taken over two years since London 2012 to bring about this momentous day, the FA has made some significant steps to enhance the women’s game, including significant new investment through the Game Changer strategy. That has brought about greater media and commercial presence both through and beyond the Women’s Super League. The leadership of FA National Game Director Kelly Simmons and her colleagues and their determination to build up women’s football in England deserves our thanks and congratulations.
Unfortunately though, the FA’s commitment to women in football has fallen short in certain areas, as I have had to point out repeatedly in the media this year. Sexism still exists at the highest level in football and the FA as regulator seems incapable of addressing that, let alone the racism or anti-LGBT discrimination that remains highly prevalent in our sport. There is absolutely no excuse not to charge a senior FA or league official with bringing the game into disrepute when they are sexist, racist, or homophobic. Anyone who commits discriminatory misconduct should face disciplinary sanctions, not just easy targets like players and coaches.
As football fans, we should all demand better of the Football Association. Whether you are a woman, a disabled person, part of the LGBT community, someone who is black or asian, or simply an ally of diversity, use your voice to call on the FA to effectively tackle discrimination in the game. Write to Greg Dyke the FA Chairman or to your County FA representative on the FA Council, petitioning them to respond properly when senior figures in football misbehave.
Football is our game, our passion, and an important part of all of our lives. Let’s be clear with those who administer the game that we won’t tolerate intolerance or discrimination. Let’s celebrate diversity and cheer on our teams at today’s matches.”
Edward Lord is Chair of the London FA Inclusion Advisory Group, a Patron of LGBT football campaign ‘Just a Ball Game’?, a Stonewall Ambassador and Role Model, and a former member of the Football Association’s Inclusion Advisory Board.