Football's Equal Opportunities: At Risk With A Tory Government?

Antony HerbertAnalyst IIIFebruary 18, 2010

GILLINGHAM, MEDWAY - JANUARY 22:  Conservative Party Leader David Cameron talks at the Sunlight Centre on January 22, 2010 in Gillingham, England. Mr Cameron spoke to residents and community leaders on what he calls Britain's 'broken society'.  (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Equality in the United Kingdom has come on leaps and bounds in the last couple of decades with those in vulnerable or ineffective positions being afforded the same opportunities as those born luckily into them.

In the world of football the ‘Let’s Kick Racism out of Football’ initiative worked wonders, portraying a tight and uncompromising stance against racial abuse.

Women’s football has also seen a slight but gradual increase in its exposure, with various matches appearing on mainstream television.

The new initiative to tackle homophobia also is a step in the right direction, even if it may appear to have been slightly mishandled. Yet it will though undoubtedly follow on from Stonewall’s ‘Some People Are Gay. Get Over It’ campaign.

The sport of football effectively then, so stereotypically white, male and heterosexual is being redefined into one that accepts people of all races, sexes and sexualities. It is apparent that there will be long journey still to take, but one that people are showing a willingness to follow.

This has a great deal to do with our government; the Labour party who from an early point in their occupancy of power laid clear their intentions of improving equal opportunities throughout the country.

As a result hate legislation amendments have been a major focus of policy making in both the UK and also other influenced countries, including the United States.

For those spectators in football who objected to such transformation their voices can still be heard on the stands on a match day, but in scenes that are gradually being phased out to envision a respectable yet still passionate portrayal of a football supporter.

Jason Euell’s reaction to a Stoke City fan’s racist outburst in 2009 was inspirational yet required to show that one persons narrow-minded thoughts could not go left unnoticed, and so the march goes on in the fight for equality.

The majority of fellow spectators now as a result do not expect, comprehend or commend any form of this derogatory behaviour towards a footballer.

Now though with the next general election looming, there is a definite nervous feeling within those of minority groups that a return to a Conservative government could spell the end of this promising development.

With previous decades to reflect upon it is understandable why a party so aligned with the blatantly racist Daily Mail types, and also one that has objected to almost any gay rights campaigns, are feared.

Our vision of those who supported Tory is a long standing one of those who support inequality amongst the population.

This is a vision that Tory leader David Cameron is attempting to subvert. His re-invention in the last few years, although contradictory to his early opinions, has won him numerous fans and probable voters. This is making him vastly more appealing than the current and lacklustre Prime-Minister Gordon Brown, who appears clumsy and dull, providing little warrant for an election win.

The unease that some feel at Cameron’s sudden reversal of his prejudiced views is not dumbfounded but he seems to be the lesser of two evils.

What most forget however is that although the party leader confesses liberalism in his thoughts, his followers often do not. It is a scary thought that at least a quarter of his fellow Tories have objected to equal opportunities initiatives in recent years. So if they were to be given a position of influential power, what is to stop the party overthrowing their leaders opinions and forcing their decisions upon the houses of parliament. Such an event could have harmful consequences to all areas of life in the UK, including the sporting world.

Would we really want to risk changing our government to a party that could halt the mass progression we have witnessed since Tony Blair came into power?

I pose this question because any political nation can come across at times as extremely fickle. The change of power to someone with opposing views can often lead those who vote to vacate previous opinions and to redefine their belief’s, sometimes gifting those who want to hate, the advantage of supremacy to force their ideas.

Of course the initiatives tackling racism in football have been so overwhelming in their outcome that it would be highly difficult for any reversal to take place. Yet for areas such as homophobia in the sport, which are only just beginning to lay the foundations to their optimistic campaigns, it could provide the end to any occurrence of change that we desperately want and need.

Emerging gay and black footballers after all need idols to appreciate and emulate, otherwise we may risk losing various sensational talents. This would all be in the name of uncomfortability for those who feel threatened on upon reaching a football pitch due to the way they were born and the way they expect to be treated as a result.

So the journey for equality in football could face a new but foreseen challenge. One would like to think that it will not be a challenge that faces one consequential disaster after another, yet those who want positive change may be required to be more alert than before. Any events unfolding that may harm the progression made in football will need to be dealt with accordingly and with great care.

We are moving in the right direction to gain some compassion and respect from other nations with regards to the way that our fans and spectators compose themselves on match day. So may this continuous improvement be fruitful in the years to come in our attempts to inspire all who look upon our game with the highest regard.



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