Rewind to the 1970s, when we had The Black & White Minstrel Show, Love Thy Neighbour and Mind Your Language on television, the rise of the National Front as a legitimate political movement, and monkey-chanting at the (very few) black players playing football.

The death of former West Bromwich Albion forward, Cyrille Regis in 2018, brought about a tidal wave of emotion and memories as to how he and two team-mates, Laurie Cunningham and Brendan Batson, had been at the vanguard of emerging black footballers in England. Along with Viv Anderson at Nottingham Forest, and a few others in the late 1970s, they had suffered the most tortuous, horrific racial abuse from the terraces; It was the kind of behaviour thankfully not seen at football today; at least, not in England, and to nothing like the same scale.

Bananas were thrown on the pitch, monkey chants drifted across the terrace like a bad smell, along with howls of laughter at the oh-so quick-wittedness of the collected masses. For my part, I remember being on the North Stand at the Goldstone Ground in Hove, to see Manchester City goalkeeper Alex Williams – the first black goalkeeper in England – receive appalling racial abuse from my fellow fans. This was 1981. I was 11 at the time; I knew this sort of thing went on, but at 11, what could I do? I knew I felt uncomfortable with this stuff going on around me, but my point is – I didn’t know it was abuse then.

And therein lies a point about nurturing racism, or at least stopping its nurturing. No-one is born racist; racial integration in a junior school playground is so common as to be natural. Sadly, it’s something we all pick up along the way. All of us. The difference is the individual who chooses to reject it. In my case, I grew up in a regular, white, traditional English household, and watched the likes of Jim Davidson, Bernard Manning et al offload their ‘jokes’ uncensored.

And in so doing, one learns at a susceptible age, to believe what may or may not be acceptable. If the BBC can show this sort of material, then it must be OK. And so, with little guidance, it’s easy to have a dalliance with far-right wing (or far-left wing for that matter) politics. Mine didn’t last long, but it was all part of my self-taught journey through social politics.


Racism does not need to be deliberate. Someone may discriminate against you without realising it or meaning to, but this might still count as racism. Whatever the motives of the perpetrator, the perception of the victim or any other person is central to how a racist incident or complaint is defined.

Racism can be an action by an individual or a culture of a workplace: ‘normal’ behaviour that underpins everyday practices.

It can be a one-off action, or subtle every day behaviours that can add up to negatively affect a person (known as micro-aggressions).

Racism can also be the deliberate or accidental outcome of an organisation’s policy or practice.
It can be seen in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, and thoughtlessness.

Racism, like discrimination more broadly, is often linked to power. It can determine who gets hired, trained, promoted, and dismissed. It can determine who feels included in a workplace, who feels safe and confident to be themselves at work, and who feels that their individual needs and strengths are recognised.

By the time the mid-1980s came along, and a greater social movement against Margaret Thatcher’s less palatable policies was gathering force, issues like anti-racism, anti-homophobia and anti-sexism were considered ‘extremist’, and strongly discouraged. In the minds of some today, it still is.

However, as time has moved on, so has most of society come to realise that not only is there no value in being so discriminatory, it’s actually the wrong thing to be; morally-reprehensible, irrational, not acceptable and counter-productive. Many articles in Platinum Business Magazine in its so-far 93-issue history not only relate to recruitment, retention and staff welfare, but also point out the legal obligations of employers to their employees on many levels – and this includes race issues.

In short, it’s illegal on many levels to indulge in racist practices. And yet, the law of the land doesn’t always equate with society at large, and any law is only ever going to be as effective as how it is policed and dealt with through the judicial system.

Rafiq and Yorkshire
The story of Azeem Rafiq and the allegations of racism towards him by various individuals at Yorkshire County Cricket Club while he was a player there has sought to ask far more questions than it can ever answer. But it has brought the unresolved societal issue of racism – and particularly racism in sport – back into the spotlight.

Rafiq’s accusations of constant racism were bad enough, but it was Yorkshire’s reaction which shocked most people. It was, frankly, a farce, and one by which they have done little except to hide behind excuses. They eventually upheld some of Rafiq’s complaints, but then decided no-one should be punished as the racism was, in their view, ‘good-natured banter’.

A quick word about ‘banter’, and how people use that as their first line of defence. Banter, by its very nature, must exist between two or more consenting parties. One-way ‘banter’ in whatever form – especially racism – is not banter, it’s abuse, and trying to hide behind it is the very essence of cowardice. Someone may well have to explain one day what ‘good-natured racism’ is.

The row is rumbling on, and Yorkshire Cricket, as an institution, are not going to come out of this well at all. All they have done so far, at least publicly, is shrug their shoulders of it, and mumbled platitudes of their version of an apology.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, to throw another stink bomb into the issue, matters have been compounded by the later revelation that Rafiq himself had sent an anti-Semitic message in 2011. He has since apologised, but to some, it will only muddy the waters.

So, does this latest revelation exonerate Yorkshire, or free them of their obligations to improve their behaviour? Will it exclude Rafiq from being able to continue with his ongoing complaint given his now far from polished record on race relations? The answer to all is... no. Quite the opposite, it doesn’t weaken either case; it strengthens the whole matter, and adds urgency to clearing up the problematic blight that is racism – institutional and individual.

It also seeks to show that racism, or ethnic abuse is a global problem; a global web, reaching everywhere in all directions, with only certain cultures ready to want to clear it up.

For some appalling treatment of one race or ethnicity on another, even a simple snapshot today from across the world could throw up Qatari treatment of Indian workers building their World Cup stadia; the relentless stories of institutional police behaviour on individual black citizens in the USA; Israel treating the Palestinians like they don’t matter; the open and increasing levels of anti-Semitism permeating throughout the higher echelons of the Hungarian government; the cuddly Al-Qaeda’s treatment of... everyone who isn’t a ‘true Muslim’, especially those they accuse of being apostates. I could go on, but you get this gist.

So who is racist in this society?
All strands of society are beholden to a certain level of racial profiling and stereotyping, even if internally-processed. At some point in their lives, almost everyone has been. Very few people could – if they were asked to honestly reveal this deepest of taboos – claim to have never uttered a racist statement, however unintended, nor had a racist thought cross their minds, even if it stayed there.

Can I claim never to have had a racist thought? Of course, not. You go with your social environment with what is acceptable. Not even good or bad, or right or wrong – just acceptable.

It’s said that education on BAME cultures, histories, and knowledge of the wider world to those who indulge in racist abuse and intolerance is the way forward, and one doesn’t disagree. But one must also question what kind of education those same people had beforehand to think that pigment in the skin tone is an appropriate measure by which to affect such a hostile and abusive relationship with their fellow humans.


The UK is one of the most diverse nations in the world, a place where inspiring traditions sit cheek by jowl with historical injustices, and frustrating contradictions constantly challenge our perspectives. Our challenge is to recognise that when political, social, sexual and ethnic opposites mix, that they represent a Britain that everyone can be proud of, one that we should be promoting in the on-going fight for the soul of our society.

History, as they say, is written by the winners. So, the winners set the agenda of what is right and wrong, good and bad, virtuous and evil throughout time. Great Britain, almost certainly like every other country, has its fair share of history-airbrushing to fall back to make the case for patriotism and, when that fails, something far more sinister.

Who writes British history?
Without wishing to sound like a tinfoil hatter, it’s the Establishment; this largely anonymous, all-encompassing, leviathan that nobody sees, but that everyone accepts is there to continue with some arbitrary status quo.

And now that narrative is now being challenged, the Establishment will be keen to retain its power (which, of course, it will) and influence (not such a dead cert). Historians will always point to already knowing about any given point in British history, and scratch their heads at why the rest of us aren’t taught it.

For one example, we are often told that Britain hasn’t been successfully invaded since 1066. This simply isn’t true. Historians have debated long and hard over this but the consensus among them is that Britain was last successfully invaded in 1688 by William of Orange, having been subject to invasion at least 73 times in that 612-year gap.

Even the tiny fishing village of Brighthelmstone was sacked and razed to the ground by the invading French in 1514, which is why, St Nicholas’ Church in Dyke Road aside, you won’t see any buildings in Brighton older than the early 16th Century.

This example has little to do with racism of course, but it’s indicative of that airbrushing of British history in order to promote ourselves up to be – and be seen as – a superior construct; that to be an Englishman is to be one of life’s winners with little regard for others.

Of course, not everyone sees history that way, and with – for the sake of argument – the arrival, especially post-war, of new workers that Britain urgently required from the Indian subcontinent, the West Indies and other ex-colonial territories, a greater understanding of ethnicity took place.

Look at how, on so many levels, British culture absorbed the culture and identity of the newly-arrived, and vice-versa. For instance, look at the veracity with which Britons absorbed Indian cooking, especially curry; the notion of the Man In the Corner Shop who would become part of the community; Jamaican music, especially ska and reggae, Jamaican cooking, the love of cricket from both areas, and so on. Not all nationalities and cultures have integrated as well as others, and suspicion across communities – ALL communities – remains.

However, for those wishing to maintain the status quo, of the superior Briton, a different narrative needed to be written, and a quite nasty one. It’s mostly at the whims of a few national newspaper proprietors does that narrative spill over.

Buoyed by this, the ‘Windrush’ generation are now on the receiving end of a modern-day government policy which has retrospectively sought to forcibly repatriate thousands of first generation immigrants back to the Caribbean. Having been told they no longer needed their immigration papers, and that the Home Office had burned those papers in 2010, the latter suddenly decided that they were required after all, in order for non-natives to stay. The enforced repatriation policy was, incidentally, at the forefront of the British National Party agenda in the late 1990s, and with the Nationality and Borders Bill also making its way through the legislature, who knew what visionaries they’d become…?

But what possible positive value could they hope to bring upon society by splitting up communities, friends and families? This is no needless exercise in administrative house-keeping; this is racism, pure and simple. And it is coming from the top.

No room at the top
Talking of the top, a 2021 survey by consultancy firm Green Park of the FTSE 100 companies noted that of the three ‘top tier’ senior positions – CEO, CFO and chair – only 11 (3.4%) were filled by ethnic minority people, and only one more than in 2014. At this rate of change, ethnic minorities will reach their population-wide representation in the year 2237. The role of CFO was found to be the most ethnically-diverse at 7.2%; non-white CEOs in the FTSE 100 had fallen from 4% to 2% between 2019 and 2021, and for the first time since 2014, there was not one person who identified as ‘black’ in the roles of CEO, CFO nor Chair in the FTSE100.

The figure has yo-yoed between three and 5% since 2014, but stubbornly refuses to increase. Given that the non-white population of the UK is around 13%, it’s clear that there is still some kind of blockage in the pathway to the top of industry. Is this deliberate, or is the talent pool not available?

“These figures put some flesh on the bone of 2020’s anti-racism and police brutality protests,” says Trevor Phillips of Green Park, who conducted the survey. “We know there is no shortage of qualified black and minority candidates to fill these roles if companies are willing to look. Yet the snowy peaks of British business remain stubbornly white.”

And that brings us full circle to the point that racism, in whatever form, rattles its way through all aspects of society, including sport.

The picture at the top of English football looks equally lost. There are currently no BAME people in the Boardrooms across the Premier League. There has been a total of nine black managers in the history of the Premier League (two of them were on an interim basis) since 1992. There are 40 listed referees in the top two divisions of football in England; all of them are white. You have to go back to May 2008 for the last time a black referee – the only black referee – officiated a Premier League match. Out of the top seven divisions, there are 200 listed referees; four of whom are black or Asian.

This is still way short of the overall representation of the population, and pathetic in comparison to the 30% who make up professional football players, and who have their careers decided by those Boardroom members. Other sports have similar, problematic, unrepresentative issues to contend with – especially cricket and, it appears, motor racing.

Sir Lewis Hamilton MBE, arguably Britain’s best-ever Formula 1 racing driver, Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, is highly critical of F1’s attitude to BAME drivers, and to their treatment of him personally, especially in the early days of driving. He is the first and, so far, only black driver in the history of the sport. It’s a mind-set he is determined to change.

“People come up to me from different ethnic backgrounds saying, “My kid wants to be you one day”, and I can assure you that when I started racing, there weren’t people from those [ethnic backgrounds]. I take great pride in that,” he commented in 2017.

Sir Lewis, a keen anti-racist activist, takes the knee. Professional footballers across England take the knee. Astonishingly, this anti-racism gesture is dismissed by certain aspects of the media.


While there have been examples of ‘taking the knee’ – the symbolic gesture of going down on one knee ahead of a major sporting event by the participants – before, the modern context for it was set by Colin Kaepernick in 2016. Colin was an American Football player for the San Francisco 49ers who, against advice and the rules, took the knee ahead of a match in protest at ongoing police brutality against black citizens across the USA.

The gesture has been taken on in many sports across many countries, most notably in the Premier League and Football League in England, in support of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ (BLM) movement. England footballers, while representing their country, also ‘take the knee’ ahead of international matches.

BLM is not, as opponents of anti-racism have pointed out, a support for any political party or group. It has no ties with any left-wing organisation or party nor left-wing political ideology.

To help resolve where we go from here, the last word goes to Chris Ramsey MBE, Technical Director of Football at Queens Park Rangers FC, who was awarded his medal for ‘services to football and diversity in sport’ in 2019.

“There are people out there, who don’t have a voice, and don’t have the same opportunity, and that’s what my work in inclusion seeks to correct. The lack of diversity on the bench hasn’t improved. The talent is out there, but it’s down to the decision-makers. There needs to be more diversity on the boards; and diversity in thought, not just diversity in colour. Evolution isn’t working, there needs to be more revolutionary thinking – in all aspects of the game.

“Moving forwards, there needs to be a clear-out. However, there can’t be a clear-out, as succession-planning doesn’t necessarily allow for more BAME people to join the Boards of Directors in football. The way to change it is in getting those people currently in those positions wanting to change it. And if they want to be seen to wanting to make that change, they have to be radical in changing their thinking.”

Good luck with that, Chris.

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