Chelsea FC: Fighting Racism in Football

Everyone I’ve spoken to who has had any links to Chelsea Football Club has told me that John Terry is a nasty piece of work – a thoroughly unpleasant man – but nobody goes around wildly accusing England players of racism without evidence and proof.

Now Terry is in court in London defending himself against a racially aggravated public order offence – in short he has to defend himself against calling QPR player Anton Ferdinand ‘a f****** black c***’ during a game last October.

Terry says he is angry, he can’t even believe the accusation, yet lip-readers watching video of the incident almost vouch that these were his words – much of the dispute in court is over the short periods of time when Terry’s mouth is not visible. In court Terry has defended himself by saying that his words were down to confusion – Terry was verifying to Ferdinand (by repeating the words) that he had not just called Ferdinand that – seemingly verifying what the lip-readers have claimed was said.

Terry was being wound up by Ferdinand – but did it warrant a racist response?

Let’s take a look at the vision statement of Chelsea FC:

Chelsea’s vision statement that underpins everything we do is that by 2014 we strive to be recognised internationally as the world’s number one football club.

This applies to all off the field activities, as well as on the field, and therefore applies to fighting racism and discrimination and promoting integration and social inclusion.

Chelsea is committed to providing each employee, potential employee, customer and service users equality of opportunity in all the things we do.  We will ensure that equality practices are integral to every process and create an inclusive and positive environment for all. 

Interesting? Fighting racism underpins all the things we do. Unless you happen to be one of the most visible employees of Chelsea FC… Look further down a few lines in the Chelsea Strategic Overview and you will find this:

Chelsea Football Club practices a zero tolerance policy towards racism at Stamford Bridge and takes a leading role in all the major anti racist campaigns such as Kick Racism Out of Football, Show Racism the Red Card and all UEFA backed Europe wide campaigns.

Terry may yet be declared innocent by the court, but if he is found guilty of a racially aggravated offence in a court of law then will Chelsea ask him to leave the club? Probably not – he might even be championed as an anti-racism ambassador.

A less visible employee of Chelsea FC would have been fired immediately for uttering a similar statement in the office, but players appear to operate using a different set of values.So do all the fine anti-racist sentiments such as ‘kick it out’ and ‘equal opportunities’ in the Chelsea vision statement mean anything?

Not really; they mean nothing at all and may as well be deleted from the club website.

Chelsea v Roma

Photo by Ryu Voelkel licensed under Creative Commons

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