Thursday, 27 December 2012
The Football Association (FA) has gifted a document to us, 'English Football’s Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Action Plan', FA Action Plan. A response to the FA's comical mishandling of a few race-related incidents, un-elected FA chairman David Bernstein claims the Action Plan is "a commitment on behalf of English football to ensure the game is inclusive and free of discrimination".
The Action Plan is a long list of "commitments" from various administrative bodies within football, including leagues, players' union, managers' union and referees' association. However, it can be reduced to two "commitments": 'Positive discrimination' in the workforce in football, and equality/discrimination policing.
In a section entitled 'Widening the diversity of football’s workforce' the Action Plan includes "setting targets" for female and for disabled coaches, ensuring that 10% of coaches and 10% of referees are non-white, and a general desire to "capacity build the diversity of the football workforce" to ensure it "remains reflective of national demographics and does not fall below 10%". Clearly, race, religion, gender or sexuality should not be reasons to be obstructed in one's chosen career or occupation, but imposition of quotas and targets is absurd. Any fool can ensure that the decisions he makes regarding recruitment satisfy some arbitrary quota or target, but such adherence to a target does not eradicate any prejudice that may exist and is an dampener to ensuring the highest quality. Quotas and targets are fraudulent replies to prejudice. Further, as more than 10% of footballers are non-white, does the FA propose there should be more white footballers to address an lack of adherence to "national demographics"?
Equality and discrimination policing
In sport many of the normal accepted codes of etiquette and social niceties can be set aside when competing and when supporting one's team. Determining whether the divergence from polite behaviour becomes offensive is assessment informed by both an opinion and by intelligence. Commentary on race issues in football recently have ranged from a resolution of a dispute with a handshake, (Blatter), to police intrusion on every utterance, (Peter Herbert). In the Action Plan, in a section called 'Regulation and Reporting', the FA offers no clue how strict or otherwise it intends to be; in particular, it ascribes no definition of what it considers offensive or not. All it does is suggest that policing of whatever it thinks is unacceptable will be more easily available.
Social media use
Social media such as twitter, facebook, message boards, and blogging provide a platform for free exchange of ideas and for information to be passed on quickly. The use of social media as a subversive tool has true relevance. Unsurprisingly, such freedom of speech is problematic for many, including governments. However, it is convenient for a government if the call for social media control comes from a third party. The Action Plan has a section called 'How government can support the plan' within which is a bullet point on social media: "Legislation and other action to ensure greater responsibility is taken by social media companies to monitor and take action when their platforms are used inappropriately". Of course, when the FA says how government can support the plan, in the case of social media control the FA means how the FA can support the government.
'English Football’s Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Action Plan' is a woolly, vacuous, bloated document, imbued with hideous garbled PR-speak and Bernstein's predilection for mangling the English language; one of its "commitments" is misguided, the second is undefined. The only point of note is the willingness of the FA to pretend to be asking the government for social media control that the government would like to impose.