PFA to make racist abuse a sacking offence for professional footballers
Racist abuse will become a sackable offence for professional footballers next season, as part of significant changes being made to every Premier League and Football League player's contract.
Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, is behind the proposal that he hopes will send out a powerful message on the back of a season when racism on the pitch made an unwelcome return to English football.
Taylor told the Guardian that he believes the change in the standard players' contract will highlight how seriously the PFA views racism, and remove any ambiguity about the possible consequences for anyone found guilty of the offence. Racist abuse will now be deemed as gross misconduct and, although the decision of whether to terminate a contract will ultimately rest with the player's employers, Taylor pointed out that any club failing to act "could be held responsible for condoning [racism]".
The PFA will present the proposal to the Professional Football Negotiating and Consultative Committee, which includes the Premier League and the Football League, and Taylor is confident that it will be approved. "We're just about to bring it to the PFNCC, the body by which we bring the issues to the Premier League and Football League, and I don't see a problem with that being introduced," he said.
"It just highlights the point in the standard players' contract. It would say that racist abuse, if found guilty, will be classed as gross misconduct and a reason to terminate a contract. I feel it's important to highlight it, bearing in mind what has happened, and not mess about with it and not afford for anybody to be ambiguous about what the consequences are.
"I'm not saying it's ambiguous [now]. But just to really put it in there means there is no misunderstanding on how serious we take it. If any player is found guilty of racist abuse, the club and the player need to be aware that could be a solid reason for terminating the contract."
Racist abuse on the pitch has become an emotive issue on the back of two high-profile incidents last season. Liverpool's Luis Suárez was given an eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra at Anfield in October while the Chelsea captain, John Terry, will appear at Westminster magistrates' court on 9 July after he was charged with a "racially aggravated public order offence" following an altercation with Queens Park Rangers' Anton Ferdinand at Loftus Road, also in October. Terry denies the charge.
Although the PFA has worked hard to campaign against racism in football, Taylor acknowledges that this season has, in some respects, been a "reality check". He remains concerned that black players will "think twice" about lodging an official complaint because of "such intimidation with social networks" and because "there is so much abuse flying about", and for that reason feels it is vital the "football world" supports those who come forward. Taylor also revealed that he has been on the receiving end of "terrible abuse" for speaking out against racism.
As well as the change to players' contracts that will carry the threat of more severe punishments, Taylor accepts that there is a need to "re-address the education process, rather than just think about sanctions".
He explained that the PFA, working in tandem with the League Managers Association, are planning to bring in a new education programme that would lead to managers, all British and overseas players, and even directors and owners receiving training and advice in relation to racism and discrimination in football.
"Rather than just concentrate on the young apprentices as part of their curriculum, we want to introduce it to all senior players, and also that when players come in from abroad, to try and have an educational process for them and the owners of the club and management," said Taylor. "It will be part of the duty of [player liaison officers] introducing any player coming in from abroad to go through a list of things, particularly in the player's contract, where you see about racist abuse, code of conduct and what is expected in this country on racism and equality issues."Resources: PFA to make racist abuse a sacking offence for professional footballers
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