Racism scarring grassroots football in Wales

Mohamed Dualeh
Image caption Tiger Bay FC manager Mohamed Dualeh told Eye on Wales of an incident at one of his team's games

It's the ugly side of the beautiful game.

Racism in football has hit the headlines at Premiership level recently, but a BBC Wales investigation indicates it's also a feature of the amateur and grassroots game in Wales.

Teams from black and ethnic minority communities have told Radio Wales' Eye on Wales programme of the comments, abuse and hostility they say they encounter at some matches, from players, spectators and even match officials.

There have been a number of racial incidents at football matches in Wales over the past year, including last April when a linesman at a Welsh League game between Cwmbran Town FC and Grange Harlequins FC, from Cardiff, was disciplined by the Football Association of Wales for a comment made to a player.

He was fined £750 and banned from the Cwmbran Town ground for five months.

And last August, Pontypridd team Graig FC were disciplined by the South Wales Football Association for misconduct after supporters of the side were racially abusive towards visiting STM Sports FC, from Llanrumney, Cardiff.

'Wrong player'

Mohamed Dualeh, secretary and manager of Tiger Bay FC, made up of predominantly Somali players from south Cardiff, told the programme of an incident in a game in which his team played.

"The team that we were playing, one of our players was involved in a rough challenge. The referee decided that was worth a red card," he said.

"The referee pulled his red card and issued to the wrong player. The team captain approached the referee and said 'ref, you are sending off the wrong player.'

"He looked at the player and said 'you all look like the same.'

"The wrong player walked off the pitch and served a three-match ban when he's not the one who was involved."

Sunil Patel, campaigns manager for Show Racism the Red Card in Wales, who provide anti-racism education and awareness training, said the organisation would be launching a campaign later this year to encourage players to report incidents of racism, in the hope of obtaining a clearer picture of the extent of the problem.

"We've had reports for about five years, since we were established," said Mr Patel.

"Things that players and clubs tell us is about the racism that's coming from the fans, specifically in areas that are not that diverse, reports of referee bias maybe towards the other team, also players being racist towards other players on the pitch as well.

"We are hearing this on a regular basis, really."

'Knee jerk response'

A recent online survey by Staffordshire University, of 2,000 football fans and players, concluded that around 60% had witnessed or experienced racism in football since 2000.

Professor Ellis Cashmore, who led the study, told the programme: "It's almost like a knee jerk response, that it's part of football culture that you give the black player a hard time through hissing and booing and racial abuse, and it's just gone either unnoticed or, my own suspicion, is that it's been deliberately ignored.

"You would assume it would have disappeared completely but it hasn't, its still there, it's been there consistently, and in recent months we've seen it flare up in the most dramatic fashion."

The regional football associations and Football Association of Wales are responsible for dealing with complaints and disciplinary issues.

FAW spokesman Ian Gwyn Hughes told Eye on Wales the governing body took a "zero tolerance" approach to racism and supported the work of Show Racism the Red Card.

Eye on Wales is broadcast at 13:04 GMT on Sunday 11 March on BBC Radio Wales.

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