With racism in England cricket making the headlines in the UK, the Isle of Man FA has published its findings into a survey into diversity and inclusion in Manx football.

Few incidents are reported in the island, but the FA sought, with the help of FC Isle of Man striker Furo Davies, to get a better idea of if incidents are going unreported and how issues can be addressed.

The survey had 247 responses, making up just 5.3% of all players. With responses coming from players, coaches, referees and others involved in the local game.

It found that 92% think Manx football is a ‘welcoming environment’, dropping slightly to 90% for those identifying as ethnic minorities. However 74% of people said they would be unsure about to report an incident or racism. A slight majority (59%) of referees who responded said they knew what steps to take.

Of the respondents, 29% said they had ‘seen or experienced racism in Manx football, though this does rise of 55% of ethnic minorities. It adds: ‘In addition, another 7% thought that maybe they had, which highlights what a sensitive and complex area this is. There were main stories recounting incidents from the past as well as more recent experiences.’

Worryingly, only 57% of respondents had faith in the FA to deal with incidents of racism effectively and others said it was difficult to handle this sort of complaint on a small island.

The FA’s report says: ‘These stories varied a lot in nature from the worst kind of racist verbal abuse to more subtle, inappropriate comments from spectators, opposition and even team-mates. Some players and referees felt race had been used to influence refereeing decisions. There were several comments made implying that lack of footballing success or progression was due to ethnicity. Several comments referred to “banter”: some suggested that a bit of banter is okay; others said that excusing racist comments as banter is unacceptable. In addition, there were a few comments alluding to sexist and homophobic behaviour from spectators and players.

‘Responses from those identifying as ethnic minority were generally similar to overall responses. However, personal experiences of racism among ethnic minorities were understandably at a much higher level. There were many different views on the seriousness of racism in IOM football, ranging from racism being defined as a major problem to it being something we shouldn’t be highlighting. Some comments suggested that there are certain settings, off the pitch, where some people in football may feel safe to use racist language. There were also instances of racist behaviour being dealt with by teams on the spot, showing a determination by some clubs not to tolerate this kind of behaviour.’

Quotes

The following is a selection of the overall comments made and broadly represents the opinions of respondents and the themes coming out of the questionnaire:

‘Instead of addressing players by names, ethnic minority players are referred to as “That Black player”. You can hear parents, coaches, spectators, supporters making racial and demeaning comments at football matches.’

Racism exists at all levels. Personally racially abused as a player/coach and volunteer…. Reported it and had hearings … Racism from coaches and players who think they are joking about but it’s racism. Historically I’ve heard the odd comment or name thrown around however this has over time petered out.

‘One of our players was verbally abused at a game. The referee did not do anything about it but the culprit was identified and his club banned him.’

‘Racist remarks are thrown as banter. It’s unacceptable.

‘In the first instance [to report racist abuse] I would submit a written statement to the IOMFA’s Welfare Officer.’

‘Every establishment can improve and do better in the way it handles racist incidents. There are always things to learn. I think it’s important to consult the BAME community to look at ways to improve procedures/how things are dealt with.’

‘Past experience [of the IOMFA dealing with reports of racist abuse] does not give me much confidence.’

‘Due to the close knit society on the IOM, many of the witnesses that would be called, would, most likely and from experience, side with their mate/abuser so as not to be seen as a grass and lose the respect of the group.’

Kick It Out

The FA added: ‘ Most people stated that reporting racist incidents is done through the IOMFA Welfare Officer, however it can also be reported directly through the English FA or through Kick It Out. Discrimination complaints are overseen by representatives of
the FA.

‘There were many comments made about and by referees regarding racism. This highlighted how difficult it is for referees to deal with allegations on the spot, especially if they have not heard or seen a specific incident. There were suggestions that in the past, some referees found it easier to ignore such behaviour and get on with the game. Several referees had never actually observed racist abuse during a match but where they did, they were clear that it would be recorded in their match report.’

The association says that racial diversity and including has not been a high profile issue for Manx football in the past, ‘probably because the IOM is not a racial diverse place’. It adds that while the severe did not demonstrate there is a major problem or racism in Manx football, ‘there are evidently players and others involved in football who have felt uncomfortable and evening intimidated by racist behaviour and there is every chance that this has put some people off football’.

It adds: ‘For those who lack confidence in the IOMFA’s ability or desire to take diversity and inclusion seriously, we hope that this report and subsequent actions give some reassurance. It was reassuring that most people who responded think this is an important issue and while it is up to individual clubs and players to model inclusive behaviour there are specific actions the IOMFA can take to support this.’

The actions it intends to take is providing educational resources for clubs on diversity, publish and equality policy for the FA, set up an inclusion advisory group, clarify the procedure for reporting racism and promoting it to the football community and source training materials for referees. It says that it has already appointed an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion lead on its board and published and equality statement for the FA.

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