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Arak Journal

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Gooooal! Kick Racism Off the Soccer PitchGooooal! Kick Racism Off the Soccer<p>Imagine having just been promoted to the English Premier League after beating Derby County to secure promotion as a soccer player. You have been playing extremely well and have received a call up to the England national team. After years of training and perseverance, you are excited to practice and travel with the team and to represent your country in competitions across the world. Your manager has given you the nod to start at the center-back position for the game against Bulgaria. As you take the pitch, or field, you are beaming with pride and honor to be wearing the Three Lions crest on your jersey. Halfway through the first match, your concentration is shattered by jeering monkey noises and racist chants from the Bulgarian fans. Pro footballer Tyrone Mings experienced this incident in 2019, but this incident is not isolated; persistent racism has existed in professional soccer for over twenty-five years.  The rules handed down by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and other organizations have done little to change inequality. It is time for soccer to align itself with a global movement to fight racial prejudice and intolerance by showing racism the red card and ejecting it from the game. </p><p>Soccer, known as football outside the United States, is a sport of superlatives: the most popular, O jogo bonito (the most beautiful), the most passionate—and the most racist. The sport is a global phenomenon, played in over 225 countries with 3.5 billion fans. Soccer's universal appeal should create a level playing field and transcend national, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic boundaries. However, soccer is tarnished by persistent discrimination and harassment of players of racial and ethnic minority status.  Soccer-related violence became so rampant during English matches that it was dubbed the "British disease," but it exists everywhere that rivalries and social, political, and fan reactions intermix to ignite violence and antisocial behavior. </p><p>Racism and prejudice in soccer are part of a larger conversation about discrimination, diversity, and racial justice. Nationalist politics, a backlash against the political establishment, immigration, and a dilution of national identity feed violence in soccer. This problem has been widely studied by sociologists, academic researchers, international governing bodies like FIFA, the Union of European Football Association (UEFA) and pro club management ("No Level Playing Field" 12). The studies conclude that racism in soccer is caused by several factors: a lack of management diversity, the illusion that sports offer a fair playing field, acceptance of hooliganism (or violent behavior perpetrated by fans), and the notion of racism without racists (i.e., denying intentional racism). However, researchers have not reached a consensus on how soccer can align itself with a global effort to fight racial prejudice and intolerance.</p><p>A gap in the conversation is that players have endured years of racial prejudice while international governing bodies' attempts to stop harassment have been futile, either because the sanctions were too lenient or because sanctions were not consistently enforced. In his interview with SB Nation, sociologist Ben Carrington explains that some people simply do not want to have a conversation about racism and acknowledge that it genuinely is a problem (Madu). In addition, Jules Boykoff, a political science professor and former Olympic soccer player, discusses an issue with Russia to show how FIFA's behavior undermines its own policies on racism, saying that FIFA is engaged in "sportwashing, gifting its signature event [the World Cup] to authoritarian countries" like Russia where "football hooliganism is a festering mess of xenophobia and bigotry" (Tan-Delli Cicchi and Zinn). While it is true that a uniform worldwide code of conduct is necessary to guide officials, I maintain that FIFA's and UEFA's global efforts have failed because they lack consistent local enforcement and accountability. The vague hope that a more diverse FIFA management or a thick rule book will cause tolerance to trickle down to the pitch, where the most egregious acts of racism occur, has done nothing to curb racism.  </p><p>Although efforts to end racism have focused on FIFA's Code of Conduct, this paper shifts the conversation to ending racism where it actually happens: on the pitch. While I grant that change supposedly comes from the top, authentic change agents of racism are at the match, not at FIFA's Zürich headquarters. Soccer is unique among the world's major sports because the noise and cheering of the fans release the crowd from the restraints of "excitement control" and allow supporters to engage in soccer enthusiasm for an intensive and extraordinary emotional experience (Elias and Dunning qtd in Bonz 149). Soccer stadiums are architecturally designed to increase the intensity of emotions by echoing back chants and cheers. Fan culture creates a soundscape that encourages supporters to experience the match emotionally on an individual level and as part of a community (149). These groups have a tremendous impact on the game-day atmosphere and take their role of inspiring their team very seriously. While a collective identity unites supporters and their team, the fandom phenomenon can devolve into a dangerous pack mentality when thousands of people chant racist or vulgar comments under the guise of team spirit and despite aborted efforts from the top levels of professional soccer, the sport can combat racism by eliciting support from fan groups, making the environment more family-friendly, and cultivating fan-player relationships.</p><p>In order to leverage fan group support, soccer clubs must view these groups as an integral part of the entertainment experience and as a unique fan culture. But insights suggest that fan groups can serve a more serious role of stopping racism and harassment. These officially recognized groups have leaders, board meetings, and liaisons with pro club executives. They have a <em>capo </em>who harnesses the stadium's energy and creates a home-field advantage for dedicated fans. During matches, the groups engage thousands of fans to sing, chant, drum, wave homemade flags, and present a tifo, which is an elaborately choreographed visual display. As the supporter group of Atlanta United makes clear in their mission statement, fans are ultimately responsible for the atmosphere in the stadium as they pledge to "create the loudest, most creative, most passionate and stunning, gritty yet flashy sporting experience" (Kueppers). Requiring groups to uphold a club's code of conduct where hate speech and violence are banned is the first step to ending racism. Supporters can be persuaded to adopt best practices since many already contribute to philanthropic organizations and participate in community events for their favorite soccer club.  Clubs have direct local control over official groups because they provide the group with preferential treatment and benefits such as dedicated stadium seats and reduced-price tickets. If supporter groups violate the club's code of conduct, the club may impose bans without waiting for FIFA to intervene. For example, the New York Red Bulls revoked recognition and all privileges for the Garden State Ultras in 2018 due to abusive and obscene behavior ("Garden State Ultras"). Since supporter groups are portrayed as the lifeblood of the soccer organization, responsible groups can drown out racist and discriminatory voices. Reducing football hooliganism involving intimidation, conflict, and derogatory chants will enable supporter groups to show allegiance and rally fans in the best tradition of soccer—without racism. </p><p>To understand how fan groups can be more effective than FIFA in denying racists a platform, one needs to examine how FIFA's sanctions are fraught with problems. Although FIFA has officially implemented a zero-tolerance policy against racism where referees will (1) stop a match for racist behavior; (2) suspend the match; and ultimately (3) abandon the match, these rarely-enforced rules have many disadvantages ("Who We Are"). The most important disadvantage is that FIFA's sanctions focus on reacting to rather than stopping racism. When sanctions or suspensions occur, especially during televised matches, racists create a huge forum for spreading their derogatory chants and behaviors. Stopping a match frequently ignites more abuse. Sanctions punish the majority of devoted fans who engage in positive behavior. Professional soccer tickets are among the most expensive in sports; when a match is abandoned, fans lose money and the chance to enjoy their team. Sanctions pit player against player since white players do not stand in solidarity with their victimized teammates and rarely involve themselves with racism as a moral and social issue. Rather, white players view racism as something that does not concern them. When sanctions fail, players must decide whether to walk off the pitch in protest (Cunningham). Managers oppose a walk-off since it can lead to a forfeit. As a result, harassed players remain in the game while racial epithets and objects are hurled at them, making official protocols against racism full of inconsistencies. This is not to say that FIFA sanctions should not be enacted and enforced but rather that fan groups are key to controlling the stadium environment and stopping racism before it starts.</p><p>As an illustration of the benefits of groups displaying tolerance rather than thuggish behavior, I want to show how a positive, inclusive fan experience will grow the game, capitalize on soccer's huge investment in new clubs, and profit its bottom line. No responsible parent wants children to witness vicious fans screaming racial slurs, fighting, and intimidating minority players. Curbing violence and creating a more family-friendly experience will increase revenues by attracting more of the 4.2 million youth players in America and 265 million worldwide to attend a professional game. According to Nielsen Sports' 2018 World Football Report for the U.S. market, 55% of respondents from the 16-24 age demographic were "interested" or "very interested" in football (11). However, Major League Soccer average game attendance in 2019 of 21,000 fans significantly lagged Major League Baseball (MLB) and National Football Association (NFL) average game attendance of 28,000 and 66,000 that year, respectively (Gough). Given the existing fan base among young people, it therefore stands to reason that attracting a larger stadium crowd involves creating a more family-friendly experience and curbing excessive alcohol consumption as part of the fan group experience. Hooliganism is exacerbated when alcohol is an "essential part of matchday" (Strang 2). Furthermore, violent and inappropriate behavior may be conducted when alcohol is introduced to the situation.  Fan groups that permit or encourage binge drinking during their tifo increase the risk of social disorder and confrontation. Research and common sense suggest that limiting alcohol consumption inside the stadium and as part of a fan group's culture decreases the chance of violent incidents. Currently, 59% of soccer fans are adult males under the age of 45; however, creating a more welcoming and safer environment will attract a wider group of ticket holders ("Marketing for Sports Fans"). Fans can work together with team management and soccer's governing bodies in a spirit of cooperation to engage fellow supporters, show that diversity enriches the game, and ensure that it is enjoyed by all. </p><p>Although fan groups influence behavior, just as important to stopping racism is the discovery of the person behind the athlete. Footballers should not be defined by stereotypes and xenophobia; however, professional soccer has not been proactive in creating engagement and loyalty between players and fans. Many soccer leagues ban players from signing autographs or interacting with fans, even during practices.  Some soccer players attain celebrity status, but most lack an authentic relationship with their team's following. Social media is changing that, with fans using Facebook and Instagram to follow players and consume soccer content. MLS is highlighting players who support charities or community outreach. MLS' Players Promise campaign features players "who are using soccer to impact lasting positive change" (MLS Players Association). Connections forged between fans and players, whether virtually or through real-life contact, can help humanize players and suppress stereotypes and prejudices. </p><p> </p><p>Having just argued that soccer must create a safer family-friendly environment and cultivate positive player-fan interactions, I believe it is time for the world to see how forging connections between players and fans create a more inclusive environment and a diverse fan base. An excellent example of this connection is player escorts: children who walk with professional players during introductions and the national anthem ("Dreams Coming True"). Their symbolic role is to represent fans in the spirit of sportsmanship. The children's presence, standing hand-in-hand with players of all races and nationalities, helps dissuade even the rowdiest fan groups from vulgar behavior. This fall, I served as player escort coordinator for the Blue Hens Men's Soccer Team and saw firsthand how the program strengthens relationships between fans and players. Stereotypes and caricatures are dispelled and replaced with an honest appreciation of the players. Expanding the player escort program in professional soccer to engage more youth teams, families and coaches is a good way to boost fan enthusiasm and generate goodwill within the community, thereby preventing hooliganism. </p><p> </p><p>In order to combat racism, professional leagues cannot rely on global FIFA guidelines to stop local hooliganism. Soccer must stop reacting to racism and instead put an end to it at the source: in the stadium among the fans. Interventions that prevent abusive behavior and punish violators will have a significant impact on curbing racism. To stop hooliganism, evidence from organizations like Kick It Out indicates that leagues will be more receptive when it benefits their bottom-line profits by boosting family and youth ticket sales and advertising revenues from companies who want to avoid intolerance ("Football in Pursuit of Equality"). Ultimately, what is at stake in this case is bringing a global sport in line with the global movement to stop violent racist behavior. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, yet it has the dubious distinction of being the most racist. Some may argue that it is FIFA's and UEFA's obligation to control behavior through official rules, but my findings suggest that after two decades of FIFA's and UEFA's inept efforts to end racism, inequalities still need to be tackled.  In the world dialogue about sport racism, this paper narrows the focus to local clubs and fans. The goal of kicking racism off the pitch should start where discrimination starts—with the fans who create the soundscape and atmosphere. Turning fan groups into a positive force rather than a mob influenced by racist chants, making the match more family-friendly, and forging strong fan-player relationships will promote soccer's global mission to "develop the game, touch the world, [and] build a better future." </p><p>Bonz, Jochen. "Soccer Stadium as Soundscape: Sound and Subjectivity." Sound as Popular      Culture: A Research Companion, edited by Jens Gerrit Papenburg and Holger Schulze, The MIT Press, 2016, pp [149]</p><p>Cunningham, Sam. "UEFA's Response to Racism 'Needs Complete Overhaul'." Inews, Inews, 30 Oct. 2019, </p><p>"Dreams Coming True for Children at the FIFA Confederations Cup.", 21 Apr. 2017,</p><p>Football in Pursuit of Equality (E), Inclusion (I) and Cohesion. (C): A Brief Overview of Football's EIC Initiatives, Achievements and Shortcomings 1993-2017, with an Outline of the Challenges Ahead. Kick It Out: Tackling Racism and Discrimination, 2017, </p><p>Garden State Ultras. Facebook, 3 January 2018,</p><p>Gough, Christina. "Average per game attendance of the five  major sports leagues in North America in 2019."Statista,14 July2020,</p><p>Kueppers, Courtney. "A Look Inside Atlanta United Fan Culture, As The Team Looks To Defend Its Title." 90.1 FM WABE Public Broadcasting Atlanta, 25 July 2019, <a href=""></a>.</p><p>Madu, Zito. "A Sociology Professor Explains Why Soccer Struggles to Address Racism.", 27 Feb. 2019,</p><p>"Marketing to Sports Fans: Viewership & Demographics [Infographic]." The Shelf, 2019, </p><p> </p><p> </p><p>"News About the MLS and Its Players - Players Promise." MLS Players Association,</p><p>"No Level Playing Field: Racism and Discrimination in Sport in the EU." European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 19 Dec. 2012,</p><p>Strang, Lucy, et al. "Violent and Antisocial Behaviours at Football Events and Factors Associated with These Behaviours." Rand Europe, Rand Corporation, 2018,</p><p>Tan-Delli Cicchi, Andrew, and Dave Zinn. "FIFA's Weak Attempts to Fight Racism Are on Display at the World Cup in Russia." Edge of Sports,</p><p>Thomas, Ian. "MLS Fans Consume More Content In 2019, But Average Attendance Drops." Front Office Sports, 14 Oct. 2019,</p><p>"Who We Are - News - FIFA Introduces Innovative Approach with Launch of New Disciplinary Code.",</p><p>World Football Report 2018. Nielsen Sports,</p><p> </p><p> </p>Carl Stewart<img alt="" src="/arak-journal-sub-site/Arak%20Journal%20Headshots/2020/CS048%20Arak%202020%20Author%20Headshot%20Carl%20Stewart.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><p dir="ltr">For my final paper in ENGL110 during the Fall 2019 semester, Professor Andrew Ross challenged me to think of a place and the issues that surround it. It did not take long to realize that my favorite place—the soccer pitch (field)—is under attack from racism and bigotry. I started playing soccer at a very young age and experienced only positive aspects of the game like teamwork, sportsmanship, and camaraderie that contribute to soccer’s moniker O Jogo Bonito - “the beautiful game.” During my research, I was dismayed to discover that despite professional soccer’s universal appeal and its reputation as the most popular sport in the world, it is tarnished by persistent discrimination and harassment of players of racial and ethnic minority status. As a  Marketing and Sport Management major in the Lerner College of Business who has a passion for soccer, I cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening. I uncovered numerous reasons for soccer racism, including governing bodies’ reactive rather than proactive stance, a lack of management diversity, the illusion that sports offer a fair playing field, and the acceptance of hooliganism. My primary conclusion is that soccer’s goal of kicking racist, violent, and antisocial behavior off the pitch must start where discrimination starts: in the stadium among the fans.</p><p dir="ltr">Soccer is a microcosm of global racism and inequity. I hope that this paper will become part of a larger conversation about discrimination, diversity, and racial justice. Soccer's popularity in over 225 counties shows that creating a level playing field can transcend national, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic boundaries and allow differences to unite us. I am gratified to experience today’s renewed energy at UD around issues of racial injustice and to see communities and institutions working to translate that conversation into concrete actions to fight prejudice and intolerance.</p>Andy Ross<img alt="" src="/arak-journal-sub-site/Arak%20Journal%20Headshots/2020/CS048%20Arak%202020%20Stewart%20Instructor%20Andy%20Ross.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><p>One of my favorite things about teaching English 110 is seeing students develop a research project that intervenes in an intellectual discipline or public debate. My version of the course emphasizes research as an on-going conversation, and students approach their research paper not as a summary of others’ findings, but as an opportunity to extend or even reframe the conversation in new terms. The goal is to actively participate in an on-going dialogue, becoming writers that contribute knowledge, not just consume information. Carl’s insightful essay identifies key limitations to how academic researchers and the public at large understand an important topic—the decades-long culture of racial injustice in soccer. His paper shifts this conversation through an ambitious-yet-concrete proposal, arguing that administrative responses can only go so far without buy-in from fans. This in turn turns the conversation away from ambiguous sport-wide attempts at ending racism toward a more nuanced proposal for a feasible local culture shift among fanbases. In making this argument, Carl’s paper offers a clear overarching argument, logical supporting ideas presented cohesively, and a compelling response to evidence drawn from a diverse array of sources, including his own personal experience.</p><div style="text-align:center;"></div><p dir="ltr" style="text-align:center;"><strong>Place-Based Research Paper Assignment</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The purpose of this assignment is to contribute to the on-going scholarly conversation surrounding a question relating to a specific place, by researching and writing an academic paper that follows the conventions of a chosen discipline.</p><p dir="ltr">This assignment marks the culmination of your work in E110, and provides an opportunity to apply a range of rhetorical and composition skills. You are to write a research paper of at least 1800 words responding to an inquiry question of your own developing that relates to our course theme of "place." Remember that a place can be very local (i.e. a specific state park) or regional in scale (the Delaware River corridor). You may think about issues or controversies that interest you, but the paper must make a direct and meaningful link throughout to a particular location. For instance, if you're interested in climate change, you could write about how sea-level rise is affecting Sussex County and the Delaware beaches. Or, if you're interested in sports, you could write about how developmental leagues like the NBA's G League have/haven't benefitted cities like Sioux Falls, SD. In other words, you can write about any disciplinary interest you have (education, politics, history, public health, etc.)—just be sure that such a topic is grounded in a particular place. </p><p dir="ltr">The research paper should contribute to the academic understanding of this topic. This means that you are writing for an audience of fellow researchers or scholars, and your writing should follow the expectations of such an audience. As a contribution to a specific field, the paper should conform to the genre conventions of that discipline. The goal is not to inform a general audience on what has already been written about the topic. Rather, in keeping with our course’s view of research as an on-going “conversation,” the objective is to add to or clarify the scholarly understanding of your issue/topic. The paper should engage with the ideas of other writers, and should attempt to add some new knowledge or insight into the conversation, or reframe the conversation around an issue that you believe has been insufficiently considered. To help facilitate this entry into the conversation, the paper should engage with at least six outside sources.</p><p dir="ltr">Arguably the most important element of the paper is that it should not simply re-package the work of other writers. As you plan and write, consider the following questions: What don’t we yet understand about this topic? Where is there a gap in our knowledge, or a space in which the conversation is lacking information? How will this paper fill that gap? What is the value of doing so?</p>

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