LONDON — The head of British soccer’s anti-racism body warns that extremists are trying to infiltrate the game, citing the massacre in Norway as a wake-up call.
Herman Ouseley, chairman of Kick It Out and a member of the House of Lords, fears right-wing hard-liners could exploit the country’s economic troubles, with “massive deprivation” in parts of England having the potential to foment hatred and exclusion.
The racial abuse of black players that blighted English soccer in the 1970s and 1980s has largely been eradicated thanks in large part to the work of the Kick It Out group.
“Extremists are still trying to get back into football,” Ouseley told The Associated Press. “We’ve managed to push them off the terraces, away from grounds. But it’s still out in the community and it’s important that we understand that they are trying win over the minds of young, vulnerable people and a lot of football fans are young and vulnerable.
“We must always use football as a basis to help young people have a better understanding to have open minds, to see the dangers lurking within those who are offering them easy solutions through hatred.”
Ouseley is concerned that confessed Norwegian killer Anders Behring Breivik could inspire disaffected people in Britain. He raised the issue while addressing top soccer officials at an anti-racism event at Wembley Stadium.
Breivik says he carried out last month’s twin-attacks, which killed 77 people, to launch a revolution against a Europe that he contends has been spoiled by Muslim immigration.
“Events in Norway over the last week reminds us that the hatred … exists not far from our shores,” Ouseley said. “Because, believe you me, there are people like that living among us in the U.K. and organizations that are very hateful.”
The leader of the English Defense League, a far-right group mentioned by Breivik as an inspiration, was convicted last week of leading a brawl involving 100 fellow supporters of Luton Town in Aug. 2010. Stephen Lennon, who was chanting “EDL till I die,” was given a 12-month rehabilitation order.
“Norway has happened on a big scale that is a phenomenal human tragedy,” Ouseley said. “It is a reflection of is what is going on in many countries within Europe. Some would say it’s worse in eastern Europe but it’s just as bad in western Europe.”
Ouseley said soccer can be a positive force by inspiring more black and ethnic minority coaches to become involved in the game.
On Tuesday, he launched the first initiative backed by all of English soccer’s main governing bodies to ensure coaching is not a white-dominated preserve. When the Premier League season starts next week, not a single black manager will be in charge.
“There’s no doubt that English football has been graced by some fantastic black players over the years — Viv Anderson, Cyrille Regis, Andrew Cole, Rio Ferdinand, John Barnes, Ashley Cole and Paul Ince,” said Football Association chairman David Bernstein. “But, for whatever reason, that talent just hasn’t transferred itself from the field of play to the dugout.”
The only two black managers in the 72-team Football League are Chris Hughton of Birmingham City in the second-tier League Championship and Chris Powell of Charlton Athletic in third-tier League One.