All soccer players playing professionally in England will be required to attend a guidance talk on homophobic and racist abuse during the 2013-14 season.
The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) is arranging the sessions, which are being called “The Senior Player Programme on Diversity and Equality.” The body has written to the managers of all ninety-two clubs in the Premier League and Football League, asking them to ensure that every player is present.
The discussions will encourage players to report incidents if they are either victims or witnesses of abuse and will outline what constitutes offensive language, even in the context of dressing room “banter.”
Players will also be advised that contracts will now carry clauses making discriminatory abuse a gross misconduct offense that could lead to dismissal by a club.
PFA Chief Executive Gordon Taylor, who personally wrote to each club about the program, told Press Association Sport that English soccer needed to avoid repeating the well-documented instances of both racist and homophobic abuse.
“We are rolling out these courses on equality and the nature of law in this country so there is no excuse for not abiding by those laws. Letters have gone out to clubs and we need to avoid any such embarrassment again after the recent cases,” said Taylor.
The letters to each managers set out the prospective penalties for instances of discrimination.
“The programme has been put in place to tie in with the increased sanctions around discrimination which will take effect from the start of the new season, [and]will reinforce the importance of equality and diversity issues, particularly in relation to the use of language and to prevent players falling foul of regulations and incurring bans and undue media attention.”
“We are looking to arrange this session in the near future and would appreciate you ensuring players attend as a matter of priority.”
Each talk is scheduled to be forty-five minutes long and will be delivered by two lecturers, one of whom will be a former professional player. Scenarios will be presented where abuse occurs and players will be guided as to the correct response. They will also be asked to judge what they regard as dressing room banter and told whether their views are appropriate.
“The training is not aimed at trying to reduce banter in the dressing room, but to get players to think about what they use as the basis for their jokes and banter and to avoid using discriminatory language,” the PFA stated in their notes to managers.
Anti-discrimination group Kick It Out launched a new campaign to tackle homophobia and other discrimination in July. The group also launched a mobile app which allows players and fans to anonymously report racist or homophobic abuse.