Until recently, we in this country had been correctly perceived as one of the leaders in promoting diversity in the global game. What this incident shows is we also have our issues.
Make no mistake: this is not just about John Terry. It is for the kid kicking a ball on the street. It is for that child’s education, for his home life, for his school. It is for all of us.
We have recently hosted a colossal, global event in the Olympic Games.
For a number of years I sat on London 2012’s diversity and inclusion board. These qualities were at the heart of everything the Olympics did, from education to local schools, to volunteering, to ticketing, employment and, crucially, legacy. The conduct of our British athletes redefined the phrase “role model”.
When you have very high-profile players in very high-profile clubs involved in these incidents, it attracts mainstream attention to the challenges we face. But, notwithstanding the issues we have seen over the past year or so, we cannot take away the tremendous amount done by the football family in recent decades, with Kick It Out in the front line.
Every club, every player must now re-evaluate their modern-day
responsibilities. The FA has changed the landscape with the introduction of
a code of conduct for
It sets out the boundaries of what is acceptable if you represent your country. That template has to be replicated right across the game from the grassroots to the elite.
But do commercial incentives sometimes supersede moral leadership? If you go back to the Suarez incident at Liverpool it is clear that hindsight is a very good thing. If they had their time over again, the key figures involved would have done things differently.
There was an intervention from the owners at Liverpool once the brand had been soiled. To their credit they learnt the lessons from the episode. Clubs are powerful visual brands and social responsibility must come with status, sending out a broader message beyond the playing field. Hopefully now prevention will be better than cure.
Look at Suarez now. When he played against Manchester United at Anfield, the consequences and the sense of unity were shown when Suarez shook Patrice Evra’s hand in one of the season’s biggest matches. When you have players taking the initiative in this way we need to see a renewed impetus from all the governing bodies.
Liverpool’s core, intrinsic values as an institution, as a way of life, were there for the world to see last Sunday. The Suarez-Evra handshake was a great demonstration of this.
Anything that was lost in the previous incidents, with the T-shirts, was recovered then. In my view it was Steven Gerrard who led the club’s rehabilitation from inside the dressing room.
The club put London on the football map when winning the capital’s first Champions League title last season. They are a global brand for what is one of the most cosmopolitan and diverse cities on the planet.
Twenty years after I put on that Chelsea armband for the first time, the current captain faces a very big challenge. John Terry has won renown serving his club and country with distinction as a player and as a leader.
No one should accuse him of being fundamentally a racist. But what he has said has contributed to a significant setback for the diversity and inclusion agenda.
It would be very positive for John Terry to show the same on-field leadership by playing his part in the rehabilitation of English football.
As we’ve seen Suarez swallow his pride, so we need to see the same moral strength from Terry and I believe it should supersede any injustice he may feel. That would send English football’s positive message to millions of youngsters in this country and across the world: this is what our football and its clubs stand for.