Football: Former Watford and England footballer Luther Blissett has criticised the Football Association for not acting more quickly to resolve the John Terry and Anton Ferdinand racism row.
A supporter of the campaign Show Racism the Red Card, Blissett told the CWU Black Workers Conference that “our ruling bodies let us down — the incident should have been dealt with on the weekend it happened.”
Blissett, who also called for more decisive action from international bodies on issues such as racist chanting, said: “Look at Uefa and Fifa, when England go abroad and players get abused, they do nothing about it. There needs to be bans imposed from international competition for this type of behaviour.”
The former AC Milan player added that such incidents would not be tolerated in the workplace, pointing out that the pitch is the workplace for footballers.
Now 54, Blissett said that he has long forgotten the physical toil he endured in his career, but that the racist taunts he heard in his playing days remain vivid.
In particular, he recalled starting his career in professional football as a 17-year-old at Peterborough with a crowd of 50 people attacking him with monkey chants and other abuse. “It took some getting used to when you are the only black person,” he said.
Blissett told how he used humour to overcome some of the racist bully boys, on one occasion collecting up the bananas thrown at him and thanking his abusers for saving him a trip to the supermarket.
He believes that the blossoming of black footballers on the field of play has helped bring the clubs along to act in their defence. “When you are seen as an asset the clubs start to take action,” Blissett added.
Addressing the same conference, Operation Black Vote director Simon Woolley cited the way the incident between Terry and Ferdinand was handled as symptomatic of the way in which black people are treated in society.
Woolley quoted the example of Ashley Cole backing Terry over Ferdinand as an example of a lack of unity among black players. “He saw friendship as more important than race equality,” Woolley said. “Until black footballers come together and say racism is unacceptable, it (improvement) won’t happen.”