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PM: "What happens on the field influences what happens off the field so much."
The Prime Minister has hosted a Downing Street meeting on discrimination in football. A transcript follows:
A very warm welcome, everybody. Thank you very much for coming.
I think it is important to get together because I think the achievement that you all made in getting racism out of football over the last 20 years has been a fantastic achievement for Britain. Lots of countries haven’t managed to do it. I think by and large a huge amount of work was done and was very successful, and it is something we can be proud of.
The point of the meeting today is really to recognise the success of the past but to recognise we do have some problems still today and some problems that have crept back in. I have been very much admiring what a number of people around the table have been saying about how we need to act quickly to make sure those problems don’t creep back in, and I hope what we can agree today is to make sure that everyone who has an ability to deal with this issue takes the steps that they can. There are things for the government to do in terms of the training that we fund. There are things for football clubs to do, for football organisations to do, and I think if everyone plays their role then we can easily crush and deal with this problem.
Why it matters so much and why I think it is so important that we are here at Number 10 Downing Street is that what happens on the field influences what happens off the field so much. I take my son to football training in the local village when we are in the constituency and you absolutely see children as young as six imitating what they see and the behaviours that they see on the field, so this is not just important for football; it is actually important for the whole country.
There are so many footballers who are extraordinary role models for young people in our country that we want to make sure that football is all about a power to do good rather than anything else.
So I am sure we can crack this problem. It is great to have everybody here. It is great to have a Secretary of State who will be helping to lead the discussion after I have gone, but perhaps it would be good to start with David Bernstein and then hear from one or two others. Thank you very much, first of all, for everyone coming together. David, over to you.
David Bernstein (Chairman, Football Association)
Thank you very much, Prime Minister, both for your remarks and for convening this summit here today which is most important for football and for wider society; I can assure you that we are all determined to kick out all forms of discrimination from this game.
‘Football for everyone’ is a key goal in the FA’s strategic framework and we are determined to provide an inclusive football experience reflective of the diverse communities and a game that is safe and free from abuse and discrimination. As the national governing body we are responsible and accountable for the whole game, from grassroots through to the professional game. We run 23 England teams. There are seven million people involved in football and around 400,000 volunteers. This is a complex matter and requires a huge range of programming and servicing.
It should not be underestimated what has been achieved. We have come a long way in all these matters but we have an ongoing responsibility and we must not be complacent. We must campaign positively to promote inclusion and be very tough in our sanctions when necessary. Of course, this is not just racial discrimination we are talking about; homophobia, mental health issues, disability and all other forms of discrimination will be on the table today.
I believe, and I think we have shown this very recently, Prime Minister, that the FA is providing strong leadership. I must emphasise that this requires a team effort, with clubs, leagues, managers, players, supporters and the authorities all playing their part. This is a high-profile sport and we need to ensure that high-profile incidents are minimised and dealt with effectively. So I am delighted to see everybody here today. I am sure it will be a very constructive conversation, and I look forward to seeing things progress.
Thank you very much.