By Jonathan Copping, Stone King LLP, London, UK
England and Manchester City forward, Raheem Sterling, has been honoured at the BT Sport Industry Awards with The Integrity and Impact Award for speaking out on a range of social issues and for his stance against racism in football.
Sterling has been vocal on both traditional and social media in relation to issues of racism in football.
In December 2018, Sterling was allegedly the target of racist abuse from Chelsea supporters during a match when playing for Manchester City.
Sterling was again racially abused, playing for England, in a European Championship qualifier in Montenegro in March this year. After that match, during which a number of other black players were also booed and subjected to monkey chants, Sterling gave an interview stating that it was time the football authorities took “a proper stance” against racist abuse.
Sterling went on state:
“I don’t think it was just one or two people that heard it, it was the whole bench. There should be a real punishment for this, not just the two or three people who were doing it – it needs to be a collective thing.
This place holds 15,000. The punishment should be, whatever nation it is, if your fans are chanting racist abuse then it should be the whole stadium so no-one can come and watch.”
In response to the racist abuse during the England and Montenegro match, UEFA opened disciplinary proceedings, which concluded with Montenegro being ordered to play one match behind closed doors.
In an interview with ‘The Times’ newspaper in April, Sterling commented that there needed to be harsher punishments for supporters that abuse players and stated that “the racism problem in football is so bad, runs deep and is nowhere near being sorted”.
Also in April, English Premier League footballers, including Sterling, boycotted social media platforms for 24 hours in protest against the lack of action being taken in response to racism.
Sterling has gone to significant lengths to highlight racism in football, including accusing British newspapers of helping to fuel racism by their portrayal of young black footballers. Sterling used screengrabs of two articles to show the difference in the style of the reporting of stories relating to young footballers purchasing houses. The articles related to one white and one black Manchester City footballer purchasing houses.
In addition to Sterling’s action to tackle racism, Sterling also paid for 550 tickets for the FA Cup semi-final between Manchester City and Brighton and Hove Albion for children at his old school.
In April, Sterling also paid for the funeral costs of a Crystal Palace youth player, Danny Dawkins, who died from leukaemia, aged 13.
He obviously deserved his award and he and others like him, hopefully, will continue to make a difference; but, as he rightly says, the football authorities themselves also have to take effective measures to kick racism out of football!
Jonathan Copping may be contacted by e-mail at ‘JonathanCopping@stoneking.co.uk’