Raheem Sterling’s comments on racism will be seen as a milestone and have already affected media reporting, according to Fare executive director Piara Power.
Manchester City attacker Sterling’s decision to speak out after he was racially abused in a Premier League game at Chelsea in December 2018 was praised by the chief of Fare, an organisation dedicated to combating inequality in football.
The England international argued the way the media reports about young black players contributes to racism in society, with Powar believing the point has been taken on board.
“I think what Raheem did there was very important,” Powar told Omnisport. “He was racially abused at Chelsea and rather than go after the perpetrators, or focus on that incident, he knew the world had seen it and put out something, an analysis, which I think was quite stunning.
“And one of the wider reasons as to why, perhaps, he’s being racially abused. And he linked it to the media and the differential treatment of two players because of their race. And, I think, what’s happened there is that I’ve noticed that actually that’s had an impact on the media.
“Many of the media now are also taking on the point that they’re not diverse enough. You see now some new appointments being made in newspapers, sports rooms, the newsrooms of sports sections. You see now many of the broadcasters are also keen to make sure that they have diversity.
“And it is interesting. I think Raheem’s comments will be seen as a milestone in the future – that doesn’t meant that things have been resolved overnight, or that they are perfect, but I think that is fundamentally a big point.”
Inter striker Romelu Lukaku was a victim of alleged racist abuse this season, with the Belgium international subjected to monkey noises as he prepared to take a penalty in a Serie A game at Cagliari.
The Sardinian club has a record of similar such incidents but avoided punishment from the league.
“I would say 10 years ago, maybe 15, 20 years ago the Romelu Lukaku incident would have been just another one that takes place every week,” Powar added.
“But that’s quite correct, we should have a sense of crisis around these incidents, just because of the nature of them, what people are saying, what it means, what the message means.
“We’ve never been clearer in our understanding of what to racially abuse someone in that way means to them individually and to their community.
“In Italy they’ve always had a problem because there’s never been a systemic way of addressing it, there’s never been a systemic programme to address the problems they have. They have a heavy-handed policing approach, which puts fans on the defensive.
“They have crumbling stadiums, so people are going to stadiums which are not very welcoming, where they don’t feel like they’re being treated as human beings. And then you have a lack of understanding generally, which has been exacerbated by the government they have for the last two or three years.
“In Italy there’s a very big public debate about African migrants in particular, because of the Mediterranean crossings from North Africa. And much of that debate has been very negative, led by the government.
“Again, that’s going to end up being felt inside stadiums and the response to it until now has been characterised by the administrators – [the] FA, Serie A – really not understanding what they should do and then being frightened of upsetting the government, being seen to take a counter-position to the government. So very complicated things in Italy that go back a long way.
“I’ve got friends who play high-level football in Italy and they say 10, 15, 20 years ago it was exactly the same. It just doesn’t seem to have caught up with other countries in the top five leagues in western Europe, and it’s causing us quite a lot of problems at the moment.”