Rabbatts: Racism a major issue

  • Last Updated: October 11 2012, 19:35 BST

Racism in football remains a "major issue" that needs to be given top priority, according to the FA's first female board member.

Heather Rabbatts: Racism 'major issue'

But former England goalkeeper David James has accused anti-racism campaigners of making too much of the issue, insisting he no longer saw a problem in the game.

Heather Rabbatts, one of two independent FA board members, said at the Leaders in Football conference that she could not speak about individual cases as the John Terry case is still ongoing - he has until the end of next week to appeal against a four-match ban for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand.

But she added: "Racism still remains a major issue. I think it's probably different in how social media gets used as a force for good and ill.

"We need to be as attentive as to how we deal with it as ever. Not just at the FA but the PFA and how managers are coached to deal with abuse in the dressing room, the role of the Premier League.

"It is a matter for all of football and needs to be top of our agenda. I can't make any comment on individual matters but the point that has been made around zero tolerance is as true today as it ever was."

Former FA chairman Lord Triesman has said Terry's ban should have been longer - Liverpool's Luis Suarez was given an eight-match ban, on the grounds he abused Patrice Evra on several occasions in one match rather than just once.

Jamaica-born Rabbatts insisted, however, there should be no fixed punishment.

She said: No, I don't think so. What we have to ensure is that people appreciate that the tariff structure can stand up to scrutiny to show that people have been effectively sanctioned for abuse."

James, though, claimed certain groups had "an agenda to keep themselves in existence".

Speaking at the same conference, James said: "I think the organisations which have done so good on the terraces are still employed looking for stuff to be shouted about.

"And a lot of the issues that we've gone on about in the last season or so, it's more about people driving the issue than the issue being a real focus."

Asked to elaborate, James added: "Well, some people get paid for doing certain jobs and certain jobs involve bringing stuff to public notice.

"The JT thing, it could've been dealt with quietly and done. He could've served a ban if he was going to serve a ban, rather than it being a six or eight-month thing."

Pressed on whether he was criticising anti-racism groups, James said: "I think that some people have an agenda to keep themselves in existence and, as a player, I don't see the racism issue - anywhere, personally.

"Maybe people just don't want to aim it at me - I don't know. But I don't see it.

"But you read about stuff that maybe you don't need to read about all the time."

James also disagreed with those who have suggested there was institutional racism at the top of football because of the lack of black managers in the game.

The 42-year-old, who hopes to embark on his own career in management after completing his UEFA Pro-Licence, said: "I struggle with the racist issue in football because I don't see it, and that's not because I've got my head in the sand.

"In the earlier days, yes, but the game's changed.

"There are some wonderful organisations out there which have helped football become a much more enjoyable game for everyone.

"Stuff in the crowd being aimed at players - that's gone, or pretty much gone. I don't hear it any more.

"With regards to the playing side of things, I don't look at myself as any different from the guy who gets changed next to me, and I'm not going to fly anyone's flag in order to join some 'gang', which doesn't need to be joined.

"If you want to go on a coaching course to become a manager then give yourself a chance.

"If you don't want to go, and moan about not getting jobs, well, probably because you haven't been on the course is the reason why you haven't got a job."

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