Race equality in 2021; a New Year Resolution

It’s around this time of year, or last week for the well organised among us, that we take stock of our lives, resolve to do better and set ourselves a challenge.

The practice of making a resolution at the start of the year dates back to the Romans, who made a promise to the god Janus. Nowadays we resolve to do something new or something better, to enhance our lives or the lives of others (as we all know the whole point of a diet or fitness resolution is to see how long it takes us to break!).

Back in 2020 there was a seismic shift in the world’s attitude to race equality following the unlawful killing of George Floyd in the USA. The Black Lives Matter movement launched demonstrations world wide and social media was abuzz with anger and ambition, while the corporate and sport world made supportive statements, and symbolic gestures seen by millions.

So far so good…but now, in 2021, we have the opportunity to do it better. We are looking for real and lasting change in the workplace and in society. It won’t happen overnight, the struggle has been going on for centuries, but there is more awareness and collaboration now than ever before, so the momentum to tackle systemic racism must surely grow.

In business, diversity and inclusion must move away from any remnants of it being a box-ticking or PR exercise, to become a core competency, a key performance indicator, so too in the public and third sectors. Customers and employees are increasingly holding organisations to account on matters of racial equality, and no industry or sector can kick the can any further down the road.

The UK’s very first Race Equality Week is scheduled to take place between 1st and 7th February and the UK-wide initiative launched by Race Equality Matters aims to address affecting ethnic minority employees.

Race Equality Matters was founded last summer in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, and aims to turn declarations of commitment from organisations into meaningful change in society.

Kick it Out partners with Sky 

The organisation which has been at the forefront of the fight against discrimination in football for 27 years, Kick it Out, has announced a three-year deal with Sky which will see the broadcaster become its media partner in the drive for inclusion in football. Sky is committing £3m and will be using its global reach to support Kick it Out.

And there is much work to be done. Despite the big strides taken in the game over the past three decades, Kick it Out’s annual report for the 2019/20 season revealed shocking increases in the levels of race hate and homophobic abuse, even though the season was put on hold for several months due to COVID-19 and reconvened with the Black Lives Matter campaign at its height.

The professional game saw a 42 per cent increase in reports of discrimination, up from 313 to 446, with a 53 per cent increase in reported racial abuse from 184 to 282. There were 117 reports of abuse based on sexual orientation, up from 60 last season.

The fact that the only openly gay footballer in England’s top tier remains Justin Fashanu, who died by suicide in 1998, tells us all we need to know.

Paul Elliott, chair of the FA’s Inclusion Advisory Board announced the creation of the Football Leadership Diversity Code back in June but, despite his highly respected voice in the game, he is yet to become the first black appointment to the FA Board.

It’s time the biggest league in the most popular sport in the world started to lead by example.

They must resolve to do better.