Featured Resource: Football Unites, Racism Divides

Racism in sport is a worldwide problem, which both governments and sporting bodies are beginning to grapple with more seriously than ever before. Recent incidents such as the racist abuse suffered by Lewis Hamilton, or the claims made agains Harbhajan Singh have raised awareness of the issue, bringing it more into the public eye and spurring sports personalities and officials to take a firmer line on racism. In football in particular, there has been a lot of work done to tackle the problem of racism, and several anti-racist football organisations are currently active in the UK. 

 

One of these is Football Unites, Racism Divides; a Sheffield-based organisation which works with young people to combat racism and encourage awareness of ethnic and cultural diversity through football. Set up in 1995 by a group of concerned Sheffield United fans, Football Unites, Racism Divides (FURD) has the twin aims of promoting diversity within football as a sport, and in local communities by using football as a focus for inclusion and participation.

 

The organisation has grown steadily over the last twelve years, and now includes a full-time education officer as well as a dedicated team of coaches, youth workers and project workers, not to mention part-time staff and volunteer workers. FURD works closely alongside national organisations such as Kick It Out!, as well as European bodies such as the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) Network. But while its horizons have expanded, Ruth Johnson, FURD’s Resources and Information Worker, stresses that the local perspective is still central to FURD’s work. 'We are still a local organisation,' she explains, 'just with connections on a national and international scale'. This community focus is evident in FURD’s wider activities – as well as its educational activities, it also runs a number of youth volunteering projects, and a social inclusion through sport initiative.

 

FURD’s website offers a wide range of educational resources online; including biographies of pioneering black footballers, statistics about diversity in professional football, and an archive of articles and testimonies. The articles deal with questions of gender and religion as well as ethnic minorities, and include academic studies, statements by politicians and policymakers, and statements by professional footballers recounting their own personal experiences.

FURD also runs educational programmes in schools, colleges, and prisons. The education officer is available for workshop visits, often combining presentations, classroom work, and football coaching sessions. However, the exact form of sessions tends to vary with the particular needs of the situation – 'we tailor our programmes to the specific group of students', says Ruth Johnson. In addition to the visits and workshop sessions run by FURD’s own staff, the team also offers help for teachers and youth workers interested in organising their own events. FURD maintains an archive and library centre which visitors can consult, or request information from. The library alone contains over 1,000 resources available for public loan, and the catalogue is searchable from the website.
In an Olympic year, and amidst the heated debates surrounding both the ‘globalization’ of Premiership football and the international makeup of top-flight teams and management, tackling cultural diversity through football is an approach which can only have widespread appeal.

Other resources on the Real Histories Directory promoting cultural diversity through sport include:
Kick it Out
Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE)
Show Racism the Red Card
Other resources and recent articles considering racism in sport are available from:

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