'Working together to challenge intolerance'

Mandatory education round-up

Across the professional and grassroots games, players, managers, referees, officials and football administrators who breach FA rules with an aggravated element to it automatically undergo the session.

An ‘Aggravated Breach’ is misconduct which includes a reference to ethnic origin, colour, race, nationality, religion or belief, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation or disability.

In the professional game, sessions are delivered on a one-to-one basis, while in grassroots football sessions take place in groups. In youth football, education is delivered to entire squads.

Chris Gibbons, from The FA’s equality team, leads on this area of work and reflected on a busy season where over 30 sessions took place.

“An important part of my role is to deliver and support the delivery of these sessions across the pro and grassroots games, which I feel are a key component The FA’s wider education offering. No other sport national governing body in England runs a programme like this.”

“Our aim is to get to the heart of what equality, diversity and inclusion mean to the individuals where an aggravated breach has been proven, help them to consider the impact of discrimination and provoke thought and discussion. And those who approach it with an open mind I believe really get the most out of it.”

The sessions are tailored specifically with facts and figures about diversity in the game, as well as analogies and visual representations to help the flow of the conversation.

Examples of real-life Twitter comments and players who have been racially abused are also helpful tools in weaving some of key messages as well as some borderline and clear examples of discrimination on and off the field. What constitutes discrimination and ‘banter’ is also a topic which always stirs debate.

“Discrimination can take many forms and is not always deliberate,” continued Gibbons, “so we emphasise how can we work together to challenge intolerance and create an inclusive football environment for everyone."

Each session concludes with participants being asked to do one thing to help football become a better environment. Gibbons recalled one stand-out response:

“One participant said they were going to be a 'better ambassador for the game', which is exactly the type of conclusion we want the sessions to reach.”