Football: ‘kickitout’ appoints new chairman and sparks controversy!

By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw

Discrimination and racism in association football (soccer) is rife despite efforts to eliminate it from the ‘beautiful game’ by the football authorities and other organisations.

One such organisation involved in this endeavour is the UK Charity ‘KICKITOUT’ which has recently appointed a new chairman to succeed the founding chairman Lord Herman Ouseley, who has been engaged in the fight against discrimination and racism in football for 25 years.

The new chairman is Sanjay Bhandari, a lawyer and avid football fan, who has been actively involved in equality, diversity and inclusion professional practice for 29 years.

A member for 4 years of the English Premier League Equality Standard Independent Panel, further details of his background and professional qualifications can be found on the ‘KICKITOUT’ website at ‘www.kickitout.org’.

On his appointment, he remarked as follows:

I am absolutely delighted to join the board of Kick It Out as its chair.”

And added:

I have been a football fan all of my life and a vocal advocate for inclusion. I am passionate about helping football where people of all backgrounds feel welcome and included from the terraces to the pitch, to the boardroom.”

Although his qualifications and experience are impeccable, and he also belongs to a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic group (BAME), not everyone, however, has welcomed his appointment.

Garth Crooks, a former professional footballer and the first black to be elected chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, resigned as a Trustee of ‘KICKITOUT’ following Bhandari’s appointment, stating that a former professional footballer would be a more suitable chairman, having in mind the former West Bromwich Albion defender, Brendon Batson, who was also in the frame for the appointment.

It has also been reported that Udo Onwere, former Fulham midfielder, has also resigned as a Trustee, and that former Swindon Town player and manager, Iffy Onuora, has indicated that he also is ready to step down.

If he did so, this would leave ‘KICKITOUT’ without any black former professional footballers on its board.

With all the racial abuse being suffered by black footballers, this would be a very unsatisfactory state of affairs indeed in the ongoing fight against discrimination and racism in football!

Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘ian.blackshaw@orange.fr’