This weekend has seen the debate on how to fight racism in football ripped open. Rio Ferdinand and Jason Roberts are part of an ever-growing list now refusing to wear Kick It Out t-shirts during their awareness campaign.
Roberts and Ferdinand have refused to show support for Kick It Out, with Roberts accusing the organisation of being toothless and not doing enough to combat racism.
Both players have come under criticism for withdrawing support for the campaign, Ferdinand specifically from his own manager, with Utd boss Sir Alex Ferguson saying he would “deal with” Ferdinand.
When asked about Jason Roberts at a press conference, Ferguson criticised the player for breaking ranks, insisting you “shouldn’t have sheep wandering off”.
However, Ferdinand and Roberts, amongst others, have found it difficult to conform to this solidarity. This is set amongst concerns about the effectiveness of Kick It Out and the power held by the organisation.
Quoted in the BBC a former Kick It Out employee, Piara Powar, discusses how there is often confusion about the power held by Kick It Out: Kick It Out is not the FA nor is it a part of it. Powar describes the mandate of Kick It Out as one of raising awareness, not actually governing the game.
There are also worries about the line held by Kick It Out concerning the FA as this is where the vast majority of its funding comes from. A Premier League spokesman expresses the concern Kick It Out is held back simply because of this fact.
Lord Ouseley, chairman of Kick It Out, has hit back at the dissent shown by players. He says they are a charity without formal powers, campaigning for awareness. The expectation of action, he says, is unfair.
QPR manager Mark Hughes says the struggle to rid football of racism is one that will take years. Hughes is right, of course, and it is unfair to boycott a charity that is campaigning to rid football of prejudice. However, it is wholly understandable players wish to boycott an FA-funded organisation considering the tepid and ineffectual punishments dished out to John Terry and Luis Suarez.
That said, if the dissenting players got on board they could raise significant revenue and push for a stronger stance within the FA.
Ultimately it is a personal choice for the players involved, as outlined by Everton boss David Moyes, even though he doesn’t necessarily agree but with the dissenters’ stance but respects their position. When it comes to a violent and ugly phenomenon such as racism, no one can be blamed for going for the jugular.