Thankfully there are more conversations being had in the media about racism and diversity in football.
But it’s a pretty easy point to make that it’s all very well the media lecturing football on these issues when the sports media – The Totally Football Show included – is, to say the least, not the most diverse. It’s an easy point, but a very fair point too.
Hugh Woozencroft was on the Totally Football Show this week, and when it was put to him that it can be a struggle to find non-white contributors because of the general demographic of the sports media industry, he had the following to say.
“There’s your first mistake,” he said.
“If you look at the YouTubers in sport, diversity is flipped on its head. The people that are prepared to make their own sports media content and spending their own money to do it, many of whom we know now as virtually household names when it comes to online digital sports media, they’re doing it themselves. They’ve made the opportunities because they haven’t got them from major organisations.
“You get a lot of, what I can only call lazy excuses, handed down from bosses to bosses to bosses to bosses. If I take over as an editor or executive, and I’m told ‘we have difficulty engaging with this community because they’re not there.’ The next person just takes it as read, and then when they move on they pass it on to their successor. And it’s just not true.
“We have a lot of this sort of endeavour to get kids in, saying “we’re gonna go to Newham, or Tower Hamlets, or Birmingham, or Moss Side, and we’re going to get the next generation of BAME sports journalists”, but there’s plenty already in the industry. What those companies are really doing is trying to populate their organisations with people who change their statistics, but don’t really change their organisation.
“They want to populate it from the lower end up, basically: get people in on the cheaper salaries, to do the least important jobs in the business, so they will change the demographic of the business so when it comes out our diversity report we’ll have changed, and the representation will be massive.
“But a bit like football, we won’t have any people who are managers, or chief executives, or in those major positions who are from those communities.
“It gets to the point where you have to say: it’s obviously deliberate. This industry is not immune from what all other industries face, which is institutionalised racism. It has a journey to take, we’re hopefully on that road, but people need to be aware of what the issue is, and we need to be open about that the issue exists.
“It’s just too easy to say “where are these people?” because: what have you done to find them? Ultimately, if organisations need to change something, they’ll invest in it. If the podcast didn’t sound good enough, you’d invest in better equipment. If you couldn’t get the best contributors, you’d invest in paying them more, or you’d try and find a sponsor and actively go after that until you got the product you wanted.
“Ultimately the industry hasn’t reached a point where diversity is something that it truly wants, that it truly will invest in. That’s something that, not just this industry, but plenty of other industries – we need to get around.”
Hugh is a presenter for TalkSPORT and is a board member on the Black Collective of Media in Sport. Find out more about them here.
For 40% off an annual subscription to The Athletic, sign up here…
You can listen to the latest edition of the Totally Football Show here, and even better you can subscribe here. If you wish to reproduce any of the material in this article or from the podcast you are very welcome to, but please credit The Totally Football Show and include this link.