We Stand With Sterling: A PFA Statement

Raheem Sterling, Manchester City

The PFA condemn, in the strongest terms, the increase in racial abuse our members have been receiving from the terraces. We encourage all clubs to take the strongest possible action for fans found guilty of racially abusing players.

Over the past two weeks, we have seen two alleged high-profile racist incidents happen from the stands at Premier League games. We stress to all clubs the importance of dealing with these incidents robustly. It is not acceptable for our members to find themselves subject to racist abuse, simply for showing up to work and performing for their team.

This weekend, following the video footage appearing to show a fan shouting racist abuse at Raheem Sterling, we have been in close contact with his agent, and extend our full support to Raheem.

We commend Raheem for his professionalism during the incident and the statement he made via Instagram on Sunday. We stand with him in calling for the press to consider the coverage of all footballers carefully, and to end their imbalanced coverage aimed at young, black players.

Raheem Sterling, Instagram: @sterling7
Photo: Raheem Sterling, Instagram: @sterling7 

We have been aware for a few months of the targeting Raheem faces in the press, it is evident that he is often singled out and treated more harshly than his colleagues. As such, these stories are fuelling racism within the game, as reports of racist abuse continue to rise.

In November, anti-discrimination charity – and PFA funded partner - Kick It Out released figures that showed reports of discriminatory abuse within football were up 11% last season (2017/18), the sixth successive annual rise. Of the 520 reported incidents, 53% were racism related - a 22% increase from the previous season.

While it may be true that no racial slurs have been used in the press coverage received by Raheem and others, we are in no doubt that the negative narrative influences public opinion and emboldens racist rhetoric.

Simone Pound, PFA Head of Equality and Diversity, said: “Football is a microcosm of society and incidents such as this highlight the current political climate. Raheem has made a stand by speaking out and we stand shoulder to shoulder with him against the discrimination of which he speaks. We all have a part to play in tackling racism and discrimination and certain sectors of the media must be held to account.

The PFA are resolute in their work, challenging and tackling equality issues on behalf of the players.”

Fighting racism and discrimination has been a top priority for the PFA for the past 40 years. We are proud of the historical work we have done tackling racism on the terraces. In working with Kick It Out and Show Racism The Red Card, we have made significant progress to ensure racism is no longer accepted as part of the match experience.

Our Equality and Diversity workshops will continue to be delivered to players and clubs across the country, these interactive sessions outline to players how to report discriminatory incidents on and off the field.

It is our firm belief that football can be a force for good in promoting unity, regardless of perceived differences. We hope that Raheem’s strength in speaking out will refocus efforts on tackling racism for all football organisations.

If any player has been subject to discriminatory abuse, please contact our Equality & Diversity department on: 0207 236 5148