English football has been rocked by a new racism scandal after black and Asian referees revealed the extent of abuse and prejudice they say is holding them back.
A file compiled by match officials, and seen by the Observer, claims that racism in the Football Association’s refereeing system is undermining the efforts of black and Asian people to reach the highest level of the game.
The diversity report submitted to the FA contains racist comments allegedly made by the observers judging referees for promotion to the higher leagues. The FA is now facing calls for an urgent investigation.
Tony Burnett, director of the anti-racism charity kick it out, said: The lack of diversity in referees is our biggest failure in football. Black and Asian people don’t make it to elite umpires.
An investigation by the Observer reveals:
A report presented to the FA highlights allegations of racism among observers flagging referees for promotion. An observer would have said to a referee: You can all run fast, but you are only good for that.
The lower levels of the arbiter system have been dubbed the black man’s graveyard by some ethnic minority umpires over allegations that they are blocked by a small number of white judges from reaching the highest levels.
There are no black or Asian umpires in the Premier League or Championship. There are only four ethnic minority umpires serving in the country’s seven top divisions.
The FA’s 14-strong Referee Committee, tasked with improving diversity in its 24,500-strong refereeing staff, has no black or Asian representatives.
A 2015 FA report on referee diversity, Widening the Net, set a target that 10% of refereeing staff should be from ethnic minorities. The FA says ethnic minorities among referees have increased from about 4% in 2015 to about 8%.
Joel Mannix, chairman of the Black, Asian and Mixed Heritage Ethnicity (BAME) Referee Support Group and one of the highest-ranked black referees in the country, said: You have observers who are racist and they judge officials for their color. He said reforms should focus on representation, recruitment and retention.
The group filed a diversity report with the FA last year detailing alleged racist comments by observers. It compiled the report of ethnic minority referees to demonstrate the racial discrimination of some referees. The report outlined a roadmap for reform. The BAME Referee Support Group now wants the FA to publish a detailed breakdown of the number of ethnic minority umpires serving in the various divisions.
The Observer understands that referees have also gathered evidence of one observer, including video footage seen by the newspaper, who allegedly made racist remarks.
FA officials said they would not comment on individual allegations but would investigate all alleged cases of discrimination. referees as ethnic minorities. The FA confirmed last week that all referees who were not of white British background have been included in the ethnic minority figures.
There are approximately 24,500 umpires in England, most of whom run amateur football in the Sunday league. While amateur referees may only get 25 per game, the professional referees can earn upwards of 100,000.
Campaigners say that while the football world celebrates the 150th anniversary of the FA Cup next year, it will also be a reminder that in its history there has never been a black or Asian referee at the final of the tournament.
The FA said an equality working group is working on recommendations on the recruitment, retention, support and development of referees from all backgrounds. It also updates its diversity numbers and was unable to provide a detailed breakdown of its current numbers.
A spokesperson said: We remain committed to ensuring that the diversity of those who play, coach, lead and lead English football is a true reflection of our modern society. As part of this, within the 2018-2021 National Game Strategy, we set for the first time in-game inclusion targets.
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