After 25 years of working fearlessly for Kick It Out, Lord Ouseley will stand down as the chairman of football’s anti-racism campaign at the end of this season.
Only this week Ouseley condemned the most powerful people in English football for failing to publicly support Raheem Sterling after the racist abuse he claims to have suffered at Chelsea last weekend and the subsequent concerns the Manchester City forward made about the coverage of black footballers in the media.
Never mind that their organisations fund Kick It Out. Ouseley criticised the heads of the Premier League and the FA.
Kick It Out chairman Lord Herman Ouseley is set to step down from his position after 25 years
‘Where is Richard Scudamore (Premier League executive chairman)? Where is Greg Clarke (FA chairman)? Where is Chelsea’s chairman (Bruce Buck)?’ he said.
‘They should have been talking out, and it has to be dealt with at the top. We don’t have any leadership at the top of the game to speak out. They rely on Kick it Out.’
Ouseley has received hate mail since speaking out but a man who has never ducked a fight insisted it is not because of the events of the last few days that, at 73, he has decided it is time for someone else to lead the organisation he set up in 1993.
Indeed, it is understood he told Kick It Out’s trustees he wished to step down some time ago.
Born Herman George Ouseley in Guyana in 1946, he came to Britain at the age of 12 and after a successful career in local government he set up Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football in 1993.
Ouseley revealed that he has received hate mail following the ‘racial’ abuse of Raheem Sterling
But in a statement on Tuesday night he seemed exasperated by the ‘afflictions’ of prejudice and hatred in society, the ‘slow process of change’ and the lack of cohesion among football’s elite.
‘When I set (it) up, I hoped the football authorities would take it on board and tackle the problem,’ he said. ‘It proved to be a long haul with a slow process of change in pursuit of equality, inclusion and cohesion.
‘Recent progress is offset by the wider society afflictions of prejudice and hatred from which football can’t escape.
‘Over the past decade, I have indicated my wish each year to step down and hand the reins to younger equality advocates and campaigners but have always been told, “not now, this is the wrong time”. No-one else has stuck their head above the parapet to lead the organisation.
The organisation’s annual figures showed a rise of 11 per cent in reports of discrimination
‘Well, now is the right time for new leadership of Kick It Out as I refocus my life for new challenges after 56 years of public service.
‘I have thrown challenges at the leaders in football and they need to show their hands — show they are capable of bringing about lasting change if they all come together out of their silos and take a dynamic and coherent approach to meeting the challenges.
‘Kick It Out is well positioned with excellent staff to keep the momentum of activity afloat in helping football to be a powerhouse for equality, inclusion and diversity.
‘It is also well positioned to continue its excellent work in helping to prepare the next generation of players for the diversity of cultures in the game and to handle all inequalities, discrimination and prejudice.
‘There is so much to be done before I sign off next year, so onwards with the action while I prepare to hang up my boots.’
Lord Ouseley, pictured with England manager Gareth Southgate, set up Kick It Out in 1993
In a separate interview with The Times, Ouseley said it had been his intention to ‘be around for six months’ after launching the anti-racism campaign.
‘It has been a labour of love,’ he said before adding that for too long he had neglected his family life. ‘It has been quite a journey, I’ve had a kicking now and then and it takes its toll.
‘I had a few bits of nasty reaction and some hate mail after what I said (about Sterling) but that’s not unusual. I wanted to ask, “where are the employers in this?”. Why weren’t the top people at the FA, Chelsea and the Premier League speaking out about it?
‘The stuff that Sterling put into the public arena is so important. This is a player who has not just been abused during his career, but has been the victim of a racially-motivated physical attack by an opposition supporter at his club’s training ground.
‘It is all the contributing factors to prejudice. It’s what’s written in the print media, what politicians say, all the messages around immigration and Brexit — who is welcome in Britain and who is not.
‘The prejudice is still there. Prejudice is there in all of us, it’s about how we manage it. In society, it goes up and it goes down but it is always there — just look at the USA now.’
STATEMENT FROM THE PFA
‘The PFA condemn, in the strongest terms, the increase in racial abuse our members have been receiving from the terraces. We encourage all clubs to take the strongest possible action for fans found guilty of racially abusing players.
‘Over the past two weeks, we have seen two alleged high-profile racist incidents happen from the stands at Premier League games. We stress to all clubs the importance of dealing with these incidents robustly. It is not acceptable for our members to find themselves subject to racist abuse, simply for showing up to work and performing for their team.
‘This weekend, following the video footage appearing to show a fan shouting racist abuse at Raheem Sterling, we have been in close contact with his agent, and extend our full support to Raheem.
‘We commend Raheem for his professionalism during the incident and the statement he made via Instagram on Sunday. We stand with him in calling for the press to consider the coverage of all footballers carefully, and to end their imbalanced coverage aimed at young, black players.
‘We have been aware for a few months of the targeting Raheem faces in the press, it is evident that he is often singled out and treated more harshly than his colleagues. As such, these stories are fuelling racism within the game, as reports of racist abuse continue to rise.
‘In November, anti-discrimination charity – and PFA funded partner – Kick It Out released figures that showed reports of discriminatory abuse within football were up 11% last season (2017/18), the sixth successive annual rise. Of the 520 reported incidents, 53% were racism related – a 22% increase from the previous season.
‘While it may be true that no racial slurs have been used in the press coverage received by Raheem and others, we are in no doubt that the negative narrative influences public opinion and emboldens racist rhetoric.’
Simone Pound, PFA Head of Equality and Diversity, said: ‘Football is a microcosm of society and incidents such as this highlight the current political climate. Raheem has made a stand by speaking out and we stand shoulder to shoulder with him against the discrimination of which he speaks. We all have a part to play in tackling racism and discrimination and certain sectors of the media must be held to account.
‘The PFA are resolute in their work, challenging and tackling equality issues on behalf of the players.’