“You could almost hear the racism without them saying it”: An exploration of Racism within Grassroots Football




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Peer reviewed



Since the Black Lives Matter global movement in 2020, organisations have been forced to honestly reflect on how racism persists and manifests, to question if there are equitable outcomes for all their employees, clients and stakeholders, and to take meaningful action. In 2020, the London Football Association (London FA) took action by setting out and delivering a number of racial equality actions. These actions included working with the Football Association to strengthen the reporting of discrimination incidents, updated recruitment practices to appoint a new, more diverse Board and Council and racial equality training delivered to the staff team, the new Board and the new Council.

Alongside these actions the London FA also established a Racial Equality Group. This group agreed that it should engage in a detailed consultation with its clubs and leagues, to explore the extent of racism across grassroots football in London. This consultation would lead to a report and form the basis of a detailed racial equality action plan to tackle the issues raised.

This report is the outcome of that consultation and reveals that racism exists within grassroots football and is manifested in a multitude of ways, affecting players, volunteers, employees, fans and other participants in grassroots football. Whilst this study provides some stark and depressing findings, it also provides a unique opportunity to set out plans to create real and meaningful change across the game in London, led by the London FA. These cultural and organisational changes take time but with the support of the grassroots football community and a refocusing of priorities, transformation can and should be achieved.

The following is a summary of the main issues and findings of this research: • There is consensus that racism exists in football and that it has a significant impact on Black and other racially minoritised groups in the London area and beyond. • Football remains a predominantly white institution, especially within positions of influence and decision making, and some spaces felt hostile to Black and other racially minoritised people. • Most participants believed that overt racism was less likely to take place in London but more likely when the teams play in the Home Counties. • Racism manifests itself in subtle ways and as such permeates the structures through which grassroots football is organised and governed. • Black and racially minoritised players continue to be stereotyped, for example as being more aggressive, and this has implications on their opportunities in football. • Participants highlighted the feeling that Black and racially minoritised players were not treated equally or fairly. • Institutional racism exists and is manifested in the lack of representation of Black and other racially minoritised people in positions such as coaching and other senior roles within football. • Some groups do not feel welcome to play in ‘mainstream’ leagues. • There is an urgent need to create safe spaces where Black and racially minoritised people feel comfortable and where racism can be reported and discussed. • There is a serious lack of confidence in existing mechanisms for reporting racism and especially in disciplinary processes. • There is a perception that racists face no consequences or sanctions and that therefore racism is implicitly condoned. • Black and racially minoritised individuals have to be able to negotiate ‘white’ spaces in order to progress or merely survive in football. • There is a need for people working and involved in football to have a range of diverse lived experiences. • There is nepotism in football which perpetuates racist and discriminatory practices and attitudes.

This research is unique and should underpin how racism in grassroots football in London is addressed by the London FA. The London FA should continue to learn and challenge the existing ways of thinking whilst remaining open to constructive criticism and feedback on the approach they implement to make sustainable and meaningful change.


Final Report


Discrimination, Racism, Football, London Football Association


RevolutionEDI (Sept 2021) “You could almost hear the racism without them saying it”: An exploration of Racism within Grassroots Football, Report for London Football Association.


Research Institute

Centre for Law, Justice and Society