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One year on from Bulgaria, football's fight against racism and discrimination is only just beginning

October 14, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

October 14, 2019 should have been a day of reckoning for European football.

During a qualifying match for Euro 2020, some of England's Black players were subjected to abhorrent racist abuse by large a section of Bulgaria fans, causing the game to be halted twice.

However, UEFA, European football's governing body, was widely criticized for the one-game stadium ban and $83,000 fine it handed Bulgaria for the racist abuse, a punishment many deemed wholly inadequate, in particular as Bulgaria was already in the middle of a partial stadium ban for a previous incident of racism.

Anti-racism organization Kick It Out and the Professional Footballers Association (PFA), among others, argued that the lack of Black, Asian and minority ethnic representatives on UEFA's disciplinary panel was the root cause of the ineffective punishment it was handing out to federations for racist abuse.

Several incidents of racism had marred various levels of the sport and on the same day Bulgaria was handed its fine by UEFA, an English FA Cup match was being replayed after the first game was abandoned due to racist abuse from fans towards players.

According to research carried out by FAREnet in 2014, the proportion of Black, Asian and minority ethnic footballers in English professional football -- in first teams, academies and development squads -- since the early 1990s has been approximately 30%, with the current figure for professional footballers in the UK at around 25%.

However, this figure has never been mirrored in senior positions or of authority within the sport, a critically important component as without Black representation at the top of British football, who is driving change?

Despite the English Football League announcing in June 2019 that new regulations inspired by the NFL's 'Rooney Rule' would be officially introduced after an 18-month trial period, the number of Black, Asian and minority ethnic coaches in England's top four divisions has decreased.

READ: Racism in football 'worse now than it was five years ago,' says UK anti-racism head

This time last year, five of the 92 (5. 4%) coaches in English professional football were from a BAME background.

As Hughton told CNN last year, football "lost a generation of really influential black players that we feel could have made very good managers. "

That's why the BAME player-to-coach placement scheme was jointly launched by the Premier League, the PFA and EFL in July with the aim of "increasing the number of Black, Asian and minority ethnic players moving into full-time coaching roles in the professional game. "

Nonetheless, Troy Townsend, the Head of Development at anti-racism organization Kick It Out, admitted to being "a little bit underwhelmed" by the new initiative and fears yet another generation of black players will be overlooked when it comes to getting jobs in management.

The FA says the Code will be launched in late October 2020 to coincide with the UK's Black History Month and independent experts from across the sport -- including coaches, chairmen, players and the media -- have been consulted throughout the Code's development.

"We do recognize the lack of diversity across senior leadership roles within English football and the Football Leadership Diversity Code, which is launching later this month, is being created and led by The FA with trying to address that issue in mind," the FA told CNN.

With matches being played behind closed doors, the Covid-19 pandemic has prevented players from being abused in stadium -- the British Home Office notes the number of football banning orders in England and Wales is down 8% from last year -- but the threat of being targeted online remains.

Both Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, and Twitter have come in for criticism for not protecting Black footballers from the racist abuse they receive on their platforms.

Zaha told CNN he felt social media companies place the burden of responsibility for dealing with racist abuse on the shoulders of Black footballers, rather than on the culprits or themselves, though Twitter says it has improved its methods to reduce this burden of reporting and increase its efficiency.

QPR director of football Les Ferdinand, one of the very few Black people that holds a senior role involved in the running of an English football club, said the symbolism of players taking a knee has been "diluted. "

English football is scared even to say the word Black.

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