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Home Sport Football

We must resolve our racism issues before pointing fingers at Russia – Southgate

The England boss highlighted an example of ‘disgusting’ racist abuse on social media.

Gareth Southgate highlighted “disgusting” racist abuse of England’s teenage players on social media as a prime example of why the country needs to get its “own house in order” before taking aim at World Cup hosts Russia.

Just three months before the opening game, heightened political tensions between the UK and Russia have compounded pre-existing fears about this summer’s finals.

Racism is high among the concerns given the number of issues that have reared their head in Russian football over the years, but Southgate made the point that a light needs shining on issues at home as well as abroad.

“I don’t think we should just talk about racism in Russia – we have got to get our own house in order,” the England boss said.

“There is still things going on in our own country that aren’t correct around racism.

“So, we keep pointing the finger at Russia, where we’re going to be guests in the next few months, but we haven’t resolved the issue in our own country.”

Such abuse manifests itself across British society, with Southgate pointing to recent example shown to him by Kick It Out’s education manager Troy Townsend.

“I had a really interesting couple of hours with Troy Townsend a couple of weeks ago,” the England boss said. “He came into speak to some of our coaches.

“He showed a picture of I think our Under-17s from a recent game that was put on social media. The comments about that team underneath were disgusting.”

It is believed the Instagram post in question was from former England captain Steven Gerrard, with racist comments posted about an image of the England Under-16 side that included his cousin Bobby Duncan.

Southgate finds it “difficult to deflect away from where we are as a country” when seeing such “absolutely disgusting” abuse.

The England manager was speaking ahead of Friday’s friendly in Holland, which comes in a week when Labour MP David Lammy criticised him as well as the Football Association for kicking the issue of equality “into the long grass” when they could be taking a BAME coach to the World Cup.

Professional Footballers’ Association trustee Garth Crooks even said it would be a “dereliction of (Southgate’s) duty” not to appoint a BAME coach for the tournament.

The FA announced in January that it will adopt its own version of the ‘Rooney Rule’, while pledging to offer talented coaches from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds “positions across a range of England and England development teams”.

“The key for me is not visibility,” Southgate said. “In the last couple of years, I’ve sat on the interview panels.

“I know there’s been talk of the ‘Rooney Rule’, but for the last couple of years we’ve always interviewed a black candidate for every coaching role.

“As part of a thorough process, we’ve appointed Kevin Betsy, Lee Skyrme and just recently Justin Cochrane from Tottenham, who I think are three really excellent young coaches.

“So, the more important thing for me is that we’re giving opportunity based on ability.

“There’s a really good support network. We’ve got some mentorship programmes, so we clearly do have an issue in terms of the diversity of our teams not being represented by the diversity of our coaching staff and staff generally.

“But I think the best way to address that is to do it in a considered programme, with the right support for those coaches and learning experiences.

“I think the pathway of coaches will follow in a similar way to that of players, in that it took a while for more black players to be prevalent on the field, but I think we have to give that time for coaches.

“We haven’t had that many qualified coaches up to this point, but now there are lots of good young coaches coming through who I believe will get opportunity and then they will be role models for the next guys that come through.

“In terms of my own coaching staff, I’ve only made one full-time appointment in Steve Holland, whose experience and quality is unquestionable. He’s without doubt the most decorated English coach in the game.

“But I am the England manager, I will appoint my coaching team as I see fit.

“At the moment we don’t have a requirement for any extra coaches. But if that changes then of course it would be important to find the right people and I’m open to what that might be.”

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