Does Football have a Darker Side?

Sports can often be identified as a mixing pot of individuals, but to what extent is there diversity in professional sports? Can people of all backgrounds, ethnicities and genders really expect to reach the highest levels of professional international sport?

With Özil’s recent resignation from German international football and the ongoing efforts to establish significant endurance races in women’s cycling, producing little fruit, is it time to ask the question: have we really come as far as we think we have?

And if not, what can we do to change that?

In July, Mesut Özil announced his departure from the Germany squad. He cited racism and hatred as the reasons for his withdrawal from the team. But he received mixed reactions. Whilst some, like ‘Kick It Out’, the anti-discrimination charity, called the abuse he faced ‘disgraceful’, others such as Uli Hoeness, the president of Bayer Munich, choose to focus his comments on his, in his view, poor performance on the field, rather than concentrating on the topic of racial hatred.

While the racism that Özil cites, sadly isn’t anything new, it’s the regularity that we see it in sports, that’s starting to become alarming. The increased openness with which people are voicing such views, means it’s even more imperative that governing bodies clamp down on this kind of behaviour. Avoiding the issue, won’t make it go away and is unlikely ot have an impact on diversity in professional sports.

What has the potential to make this issue more complex is Özil’s heavily criticised picture with Turkish president, Tayyip Erdoğan. With some claiming that the picture demonstrates Özil’s support for Erdoğan and his political agenda, one that some argue contradicts German values, perhaps we should be delving deeper and asking wider questions like, do we expect footballers to be politically impartial? And, is support of a politician (which Özil denies) an excuse to invoke racial hatred, rather than criticism of their political views?

With Özil saying ‘I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,’ perhaps we should consider the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion in sport and consider what we can do to better protect our staff and players from discrimination and hate.

If you want to learn more why not take our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion course! If you want to better manage your ethical processes in your sports institution have a look at our intuitive Ethics management software Ethics RM.

This is the first part of a short series of articles discussing equality, diversity and inclusion in sports.

7th August 2018

Sophie Griffith

Sophie Griffith

After joining us as a graduate Sophie now runs our digital marketing campaigns. Sophie also manages the Infonetica blog, selecting content and keeping an eye on current affairs. She enjoys keeping active and loves a game of badminton.