Friday, 9 May 2014

Racism! But Not In The Form You're Used To Seeing

I’m sure you’ll agree it’s high time we kicked racism out of football. But on this occasion I’m not just talking about Dani Alves having a banana thrown at him while taking a corner, or the monkey chants sometimes heard from crowds across Europe, I’m talking about FA Chairman Greg Dyke’s desire to artificially reduce or ban non-European Union players outside of the UK top-flight, and reduce non-home grown players in Premier League squads*

To see why that’s a prejudiced claim that sounds a lot like racism – replace “non-European Union” with “black” and “non-home grown” with “non-white”, and you’ll find it’s the sort of statement for which you’d rightly receive widespread condemnation. One is a prejudice based on geography, the other is a prejudice based on skin colour – and both exhibit vile human discrimination.

The reason Greg Dyke can get away with such tripe is by appealing to national prejudice in a way that couches his language. This seems to be something that’s tolerated in sport but not in politics. Nigel Farage can’t get away with it without being egged, and his UKIP members can’t get away with it without having bricks and faeces sent to them through the post (and whether you like or dislike UKIP, I want to add that I’m pretty unimpressed by those acts, by the way).

That such language is still accepted when the subject is sport says a lot about how humans are apt at taking prejudices a la carte. Even if we put aside the fact that foreigners have brought an immense amount of quality and entertainment to the Premier League - discriminating against prospective league players based on the fact that they are not indigenous to the UK is morally repugnant and economically foolish, as well as being short-sighted. Moreover, if the FA restricts the number of non-UK players coming in, will they also restrict the number of UK players who can leave to play abroad? If they do then that’s bad for UK players; if they don’t then it smacks of inconsistency and hypocrisy.

Greg Dyke has in the past claimed to recognise unfair prejudice in institutions – he was once outspoken about the BBC being ‘hideously white’. It’s quite ironic, then, that over a decade later his complaints are tantamount to saying that the English Premier League is ‘hideously foreign’.

It just shouldn’t be tolerated – neither in terms of ethicality, nor with regard to what’s good for the sport. In a footballing market that thrives on freedom of mutually beneficial player transfers, being prejudiced on factors outside of ability artificially impedes the standard of UK football, and engenders a pretty abhorrent bias under the pretext of trying to improve the quality of the national team.

As well as ignoble prejudices, it looks as though Greg Dyke hasn’t understood the people he claims to represent either. Looking to improve the national team by lowering the overall standard of UK football sounds exactly like something the vast majority of fans would reject, because it’s quite evident that people care more about their annual domestic club season than they do bi-annual international tournaments. This only goes to show that the FA Director doesn’t really understand what supporters actually prioritise. Furthermore, no club should want to entertain this preposterous pro-UK discrimination, because markets punish unfair discriminators – and no club wants to be hit in their pockets by being forced to buy players they wouldn’t voluntarily choose to sign.

Strange accusations
Finally, on a similarly related topic today, UKIP are being taken to task over their apparent decision to employ Europeans to hand out their leaflets because ‘they are cheapest’.

Critics are suggesting this is ‘hypocritical’ and inconsistent with UKIP’s central ethos. This ought to strike you as strange. Regardless of how you feel about UKIP, that particular criticism is unfounded. Employing Europeans because they offer the most competitive prices is wholly consistent with their free market endorsement; and employing immigrants already within our borders is not in any way inconsistent with UKIP's complaint that stricter border controls are needed. In fact, if they want immigrants to be able to contribute to our society and earn a wage, then their decision to employ some of them actually seems pretty consistent with the party's aims, particularly given that it was under Labour’s super lax immigration and border policies that most of them got in anyway. And ironically, of course, if they had employed only Brits, that would have led to accusations that their anti-immigrant prejudice was compounded – so in this case UKIP were somewhat damned if they did and damned if they didn’t.

* See here for full Greg Dyke story.

** Picture courtesy of