Could LCFCs sporting success help kick racism into touch

Leicester City Football Club’s phenomenal success becoming English Premier League Champions in one of Britain’s most diverse cities has ‘touched the lives’ of people from all walks of life – and could have a positive impact on tackling racism.

Renowned sports sociologist John Williams (pictured) from the Department of Sociology said: “Racism does exist in football and sometimes it is strategic - for example opposing fans use racism to try to gain an advantage by putting players off their game or abuse rival supporters. But there is also racism that is deep-seated and rooted in those old types of stereotypes of racial difference.

“I think the problem as a public focus has reduced in England partly because of the way the game has globalized. Even though we do not see large numbers of Asian and black people in the stands as fans, we see black players on the pitch. Leicester City has a global squad and that has had a generally positive impact on racism. The fact that clubs now have players from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds has made people rethink the issue of racism.

“Certainly the celebrations in Leicester for winning the Premier League involve more sections of the community and I am hopeful that this success will attract a much more diverse make-up of the crowd at Leicester City in the years to come.

“Winning has touched different communities in the city and many new communities have gotten very excited about Leicester’s success.  It doesn’t mean they will attend as live spectators because it is quite expensive and it is not always easy to get hold of tickets. But I think that via interest in the football club is one important way that their own identities will connect to the city, and so they are part of the wider group of people who are taking an interest in the club and they are very proud to be living in a city that is hosting the Premier League champions. It is good for people who have just arrived and may feel the city is a bit new and a bit strange to them.” 

John's research interests include the Sociology of football and football fan culture; sports identities; football spectator behaviour and policing football crowds; women and football; issues of antiracist action around football clubs; local football and local identity construction through sport; the local governance of sport; rugby union fan and football fan allegiances and identity construction through sport; the new global and commercial landscape of professional football in Europe. He is interested in questions concerning globalisation, national and sub-national sporting identities, and 'race' and racism in sport.

Until recently he Chaired the Foxes Against Racism group at Leicester City and he now sits on the Race Equality Advisory Group for football in Leicestershire.