sports gazette

Racism - the ugly side of non-league football

Published: 20 Feb 2017

This year’s FA Cup has put lower league football on the back pages for all the right reasons. However, a recent interview with Bridlington Town manager Curtis Woodhouse, of the North Counties East Premier Division, served as a timely reminder that some non-league clubs are stuck in the dark ages.

Speaking in December 2016, Woodhouse said: “I was talking to a rival manager 12 months ago before a game, and he said wow you lot are flying! You must train really hard, I’ve heard you work them hard like n*****s down there.”

Woodhouse is an experienced professional with over 400 league appearances to his name. He endured a terrible childhood, frequently responding to savage racism with his fists. You can imagine his utter disappointment that some 30 years later he still has to endure such vile behaviour.

Unfortunately, Woodhouse’s experiences of racism are not restricted to the touchline and are arguably worse at boardroom level.

Back in the summer of 2016, the EFL agreed to mirror the NFL’s ‘Rooney Rule’ in that club’s must interview at least one suitably qualified BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) candidate upon receipt of an application.

Despite applying for a host of managerial jobs, Woodhouse has found himself regularly rebuffed; such is the frequency of his rejection he has started to keep a diary.

The FA had told the Bridlington boss that the reason there are so few BAME managers currently active is that they were not completing the associated coaching badges. However, during his completion of his coaching badges in Belfast last year, Woodhouse reported a 50:50 split between white and BAME attendees and said:

“The Rooney rule – I’d rather not be given an interview purely because I tick a box on a piece of paper, it’s insulting as a token black man.

“There are so many BAMEs completing courses, so why are they not getting jobs? It stinks of racism.”

I’ve heard you work them hard like n*****s down there.”

Back in 1993 the 'Kick It Out' scheme was released to raise the profile of racism in football in an effort to finally stamp it out. The organisation was launched just as Woodhouse began his youth career at York City. However, like many others, the Yorkshire man has grown despondent with the organisation's lack of progress.

“Kick it out is one of the biggest wastes of time, it has done absolutely nothing. It’s not set up to make a difference, only to make money.

I liken it to people giving out Christmas turkeys to the homeless, but only when in full view of the media.”

It had been 103 years since a non-league team last reached the quarterfinals of the FA Cup, Lincoln City have thankfully ended this drought. It is a shame, in 2017, the same cannot be said for racism in the lower echelons.

Should the likes of Woodhouse feel in need of such stark reminders? He certainly seems so saying: “Sometimes it’s good to get a reminder like that; it’s not gone away.”

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