On Wednesday, 18 January 2023, Ben Wright, the Director of External Affairs for the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), appeared in front of MPs on the the Women and Equalities Select Committee to discuss the union's role in the recent discrimination case involving PFA members at Crawley Town.
Led by former footballer Jason Lee, the PFA’s Senior Equalities Executive, the union provided support and guidance to players as they took action to address discriminatory behaviour they had been the victims of in their workplace
During the session, Wright highlighted the potential personal impact that players have to consider when speaking out, and the PFA's ongoing work to provide support those who face discriminatory behaviour.
Wright explained: "If we take, for example, a player in the men's game, a young man playing for a League Two club. The degree of personal risk you are taking, or perceive that you are taking by standing up to authority and saying these behaviours aren't acceptable, and then actually taking that step, is absolutely massive."
Wright told MPs how damaging it is when someone in a position of power can excuse their behaviour as "just a joke" and is concerned that the defence that discriminatory language was "just banter" has been seen to have been validated, even though the charges were upheld and a ban applied.
Addressing the written findings of the case, Wright stated that the apparent acceptance of this kind of defence is one that players will rightly find "hard to stomach".
Wright stressed the importance of mandatory EDI training within clubs, which the PFA continues to campaign for, as a way to ensure individuals have a responsibility to understand the potential impacts of their words and actions on others.
"It's a healthy thing to have those conversations, to help you understand the people that you work with, your behaviours and your language. But also by doing that, you take away the idea that people can say, 'well, I was just joking', or it was 'just banter' and 'I didn't realise that it was offensive'. You can stop that.," said Wright.
He also confirmed that the PFA is still working with the players involved as they consider their next steps.
Contact the PFA
The PFA is committed to continue working with players to ensure that they feel supported in coming forward and speaking about difficult experiences and to change the culture within football to be more inclusive and respectful. If you want to contact the PFA, you can email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.