Racism in Football Term Paper

Pages: 10 (4693 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Sports

Racism in Football

Football ('soccer') is the world's most popular sport. In every corner of the globe, matches are played with great fierceness and intensity among people of all ethnicity, race and social status. International matches have long been a sport identified with national pride and identity, likely because it is the one competition undertaken in all nations. Local matches have likewise developed a sense of passion among followers that is also quite intense.

There is a dark side to this notion of pride and passion, however. Whether in international competition or the league play, the fans, players and clubs have had a history of using racial epithets and slurs on opposing players. This has not only caused a great outrage in the football community, it threatens to have a negative impact on the sport, as well. While racism continues in football today, the international community has begun to take action to combat and prevent it.

Economics and racism are deeply intertwined in sport and football is no exception. Racism effects football in at least two key ways. One is the collective effect of the effort to combat racism, negative publicity and loss of property and life by racist perpetrators. The other actually has a more significant, if complicated, impact on the sport itself: Racism in the sport is on its economics. Racism destroys the competitive balance in football, which in turn reduces the size of the economic pie for the individual clubs and the sport as a whole. The paper addresses both of these effects.


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Racism in football is most readily associated with racism in football stadiums among football fans. Fans and players are all too familiar with the refrain of racism against black players: throwing bananas and making monkey like chants, using racial slurs, racist signs, banners and flags and in many cases physical violence towards the players and other fans. The racism, per se, is not only in the form of anti-black rhetoric, but also anti-Semitic and pro-fascist.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Racism in Football Assignment

In many instances, the prejudices of the fans translate to (or are mirrored by) those of the clubs in themselves. Statistics show overwhelmingly that certain clubs do not sign players due to their skin color, ethnicity or religion. In so doing, that club compromises its ability to field the best possible team. These teams tend to lose more games than they win. Statistics also show that the clubs which do not discriminate in their method of selecting players based on skin color, ethnicity and religion tend to excel in the standings with great regularity. Looking at the big picture, the teams that discriminate not only compromise their own success, but the hamper the competitive balance of the league which, in turn, harmfully effects the entire league's economic viability.

History of Racism, Intolerance, Hooligans and Violence in Football

Intolerant behavior is not a new phenomenon in the European and world football circuit. Over the last forty to fifty years, a segment of fans has emerged which seem intent on wreaking havoc in the stands of football matches. They have the turned the stadiums into a battle zone where fans of the opposing team are the 'enemy.'

At home games, these fans have felt the need to defend their turf against the enemy, and as visitors, these fans felt the need to 'conquer' enemy territory. This has led to an enormous amount of viscous and deadly riots, which aside from the actual damage inflicted have given football's reputation a visible black eye indeed. These fans have come to be internationally known as 'Hooligans.' Hooligans have also become the lasting image of European football for millions of people world-wide.

Though it initiated in England, hooliganism has spread to continental Europe, particularly to Germany, Belgium, Italy and Holland. Thus, a culture of violence and police presence is now a part of European football culture. According to police estimates, violent incidents occurred at 10% of all games in these countries in the 1990s and about 10% of football fans in these countries are prone to violence.

In the 1980s and 1990s, incidents involving hooliganism became more widespread, larger in scope, and more deadly. During this period the term 'soccer riot' became a part of popular American vernacular. One of the more notorious incidents occurred in 1985 in Belgium when 39 spectators were killed and 400 injured during a clash between fans of FC Liverpool and Juventus Turin. Even a high profile event such as the World Cup has resulted in gruesome violence, as when in 1998 German hooligans brutally attacked a French policeman, inflicting serious brain injuries.

Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, the stories of racial and ethnic-based violence and abuse in the name of football have become more even more prevalent, widespread, prone to mob violence. This point is illustrated by the several examples. On November 23, 2006, after a match between Paris Saint-Germain and Hapoel Tel Aviv in Paris, a black spectator was chased by about 150 Paris Saint-Germain supporters through the streets of Paris. A Paris Saint-Germain supporter was accidentally shot and killed when a black undercover police officer, who had to come to the aid of the accosted fan, found it necessary to use his gun and fired a shot.

After February 2007 match between Catania and Palermo in Sicily, hooligans killed a local policemen by throwing stones and an explosive device at him. Only a few days later, violence erupted in Germany following a game when 300 hooligans mobbed the police, attacking 39 policemen and inflicting serious injuries on several of them. Finally, in April 2006, fans of the visiting Chemnitz team attacked Turkish-owned stores in St. Pauli. During the game about 200 Chemnitz fans chanted anti-Turkish epithets which invoked memories of the holocaust. One of the chants by the Chemnitz fans was "Hoo-Na-Ra, which is the slogan for "Hooligans, Nazis, Racists," a network of right wing groups that operates in various German cities.

Modern Movement of Right Wing Infiltration

One of the alarming shifts regarding recent hooliganism is that recently it has become more mainstream and less confined to the working classes and other fringe groups. Because hooliganism has been often linked to incidents of racism and anti-Semitism, it has become popular among right-wing extremist groups. This is even more troubling because the nature of the right wing element many times only has a political agenda.

In other words, the traditional hooligan attends a football match to watch the match and the violence ensues. Right wing groups attend matches, in many cases, only to spread their message of intolerance and hate and the football match is nothing more than the occasion which brings together a large crowd and media attention. Another key difference between hooligans and the right wing organizations is the drive to recruit by the right wingers.

Perhaps the most despised right-wing group is the "Ultras Sur" operating out of Spain. They have a history of supporting their team and at the same time, abusing and intimidating the opposing team's black players. They have even been responsible for games being re-scheduled, as when the English refused to play a game in Madrid due to the conduct of the Ultra Surs there in 2004 and the game was consequently rescheduled for Seville.

This is only one example of direct involvement of right wing groups, according to the American Jewish Committee, there are right wing groups using Football as a platform for their agenda in most European companies.

For these various reasons, national and international Football federations have found it necessary to band together to address the problem of racism in football head on.

Competitive Balance in Football

Competitive balance in all sports, including football, is critically important. A growing body of research has analyzed the need and impact of competitive balance in major pro-sports league around the world. The North American leagues were the first to consistently address this. Whether in the form of revenue sharing, salary cap or luxury tax, the North American leagues realize that the success of each individual team is connected to the financial and on-field well being of every other team.

Football leagues, especially the club leagues in Europe, have only recently understood the far-ranging importance of competitive balance, which has be defined as:

"A balance between sporting capabilities. The more balanced the teams, the more uncertain the outcome of each match" (Michie & Oughton 2004).

"Proper CB should be understood to exist when there are no teams chronically weak because of MLB's financial structural features. Proper CB will not exist until every well-run team has a regularly recurring hope of reaching postseason play" (MLB report (2000) the Blue Ribbon Panel)

"One of the key ingredients of the demand by fans for team sports is the excitement generated because of uncertainty of outcome of league games… in order to maintain fan interest, a sports league has to ensure that teams do not get too strong or too weak relative to one another so that uncertainty of outcome is… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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