Black and Asian Athletes in British Sport and Society: A by Patrick Ismond (auth.)

By Patrick Ismond (auth.)

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In their study of the complex ways in which ‘sectarianism’ interfaces with racism and national identity in Scottish football, Dimeo and Finn (2001) highlighted how the very presence of minority ethnic supporters and players in this environ was perceived as the cause of ensuing racial problems. The subtext of this Understanding ‘Race’ and Sport 17 ‘no problem until they got here’ perspective is, again, that minority ethnic groups have to adjust to existing structures, accepting the abuse that is an unfortunate feature of stadium matches.

By the end of the war, the growing non-white populations which had settled in former slave ports such as Liverpool, Cardiff and Bristol faced a number of ‘anti-black’ riots and confrontations (Fryer, 1991). Considerable social hostility to a non-white presence was also reflected in the sporting arena. In the 1930s, the footballers Jack Leslie and John Parris ran the gauntlet of abuse from their own and opposing team 26 Black and Asian Athletes in British Sport and Society mates and fans. This period was one of mass spectatorship, with fans standing in close proximity to the pitch.

KIO/FURD, 2001b, p. 9) Denial by the game’s senior figures of a real ‘problem’ with racism is also reflected in the way that perpetrators are classified, and by television’s treatment of abuse towards black players. Despite the best efforts of Understanding ‘Race’ and Sport 19 organisations and initiatives aimed at challenging racism on the football terraces, the game still has a significant problem with chanting and other forms of abuse. Although this abuse varies in extent and intensity, depending on the stadium (see for example, Nichols, 1998; Brown and Chaudhary, 2000), it is consistently classified in the following way: as the actions of a small, ‘mindless’ minority (usually referred to as ‘hooligans’), who are hell-bent on causing trouble, and are not ‘real’ fans.

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