On the Pitch United Against Racism
Building UN anti racism day in Swansea and South Wales,
unique happened in South Wales on March 20th 2021- deep seated rivals
put aside long held enmities to come together against racism. In the
wake of the travesty that is the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities
report, we thought it worth recording and celebrating what was achieved
by activists from Stand Up to Racism Wales.
A small group of Swansea City fans, who were also Stand Up to Racism
members, set up Jacks against Racism and Fascism about 3 years ago.
We were alarmed that the ageing and largely irrelevant far-right groups
who been hanging around the club for years were starting to get a bit
more cocky, and finding some resonance amongst younger fans. This was
due no doubt to the activities of the far right football related groups
around Tommy Robinson and co, as well as the persistent Islamophobic
and anti-migrant rhetoric coming from the government and other areas
of the establishment.
Unsure how we'd be received, we began to leaflet games. We needn't have
worried, as the reception we received was incredibly positive, friendly
and welcoming, so much so that we began to leaflet regularly, and then
started to distribute hundreds of badges and stickers as well.
The next step was getting in touch with the club, again this went much
better than expected and pretty soon we were invited into the plush
boardroom to meet with the CEO, who was keen to work with us, invited
us to to submit a piece for the programme and encouraged us to keep
in touch when we had concerns about activities amongst far-right so
fact things were going so well that Adrian Chiles of BBC Radio 5 arranged
to meet us when WBA played here for a possible feature for his show.
And then lockdown struck.
The subsequent lack of fans at the games meant that there was then an
empty space for the far-right to occupy and to have a disproportionate
impact, when in normal times they'd have been massively outnumbered
and unable to gather. Prominent amongst these bigots was a particularly
nasty so-called 'Media Outlet', Voice of Wales. They had already been
harassing refugees and their supporters in Penally; once they had been
marginalised there by the hard work West Wales Stand Up to Racism, they
moved East and began booing, shouting abuse and lobbing fireworks outside
games, as our players took the knee for Black Lives Matter. Not wanting
to put our communities at risk, and determined to keep NHS and Stadium
workers as safe as possible, we decided it was best not to respond physically.
However we did confront them powerfully and successfully online. Along
with a vibrant social media campaign, we wrote a statement that was
signed by scores of fans, politicians, musicians, sportspeople, community
leaders and so on; this very quickly lead to the complete marginalisation
of the racists.
Hearing of our work, a lifelong fan who was feeling anxious about attending
games with his dual heritage family, got in touch with us; with an increased
confidence he decided to go live on a local radio phone in. The avalanche
of sympathy and solidarity he and we received was magnificent - across
the mainstream media, social media and and amongst fans groups, opinion
was united against the racists. Voice of Wales were further marginalised.
thorough investigative work from officers of Unite Against Fascism and
local journalists and campaigners then helped uncover links between
Voice of Wales, the so called neutral news outlet, with far right football
firms. Voice of Wales underlined these allegiances by inviting the likes
of Tommy Robinson, Katie Hopkins and the Proud Boys onto their shows.
The latter was particularly shocking as it was just days after the American
Nazis had been involved in the Capitol Hill riot, wearing Camp Auschwitz
Thanks to continued pressure from anti racists and these revelations,
YouTube finally and permanently deleted the group's channel; this is
clearly a big blow to them, both to their propaganda machine and also
to their finances. And a victory for anti racists!
All this productive activity and publicity helped our ongoing work building
for March 20th, United Nations anti-racism day, which also happened
to be the day of the South Wales Derby. Somebody had the brilliant idea
that we could use it to try to bring both sets of fans together; the
campaign 'Rivals on the pitch United against Racism' was born.
This was an adventurous idea as the rivalry between the two South Wales
clubs is deep set and can sometimes boil over into hatred. However it
struck a chord with many fans, the Supporters Trusts and also the clubs;
pretty soon we reconnected with officials at both Swansea and (thanks
to one particularly determined and creative fan) Cardiff. We then had
a zoom meeting with officials from both clubs, representatives of both
supporters trust and fans of both teams, all working together to help
promote M20. The clubs were delighted to see fans take the issue so
then held weekly online planning meetings attended by a range of activists,
fans, journalists, officials from the ever supportive Show Racism the
Red Card and in one case, ex Welsh international and TV pundit Nathan
Blake! This meant that on March 20th, people across South Wales took
the knee in solidarity with and at the same time as the players; by
definition, in so doing they were opposing the racist groups who would
had abused Black Lives Matter. Scores of videos of fans and well known
public figures (including a range of MPs, Lord Peter Hain and Shav Taj
of the Welsh TUC) taking the knee in solidarity were submitted and used
on our social media channels.
As a way of spreading the word, we held a memorable online meeting about
'The Battle of Swansea', a protest at St Helen's Rugby Ground 50 years
ago when the Springboks, the white only South African rugby team, were
due to play. The demonstrations against this dramatically and irreversibly
turned the tide on the racist apartheid South African regime. We managed
to assemble an incredible line up of speakers including Lord Peter Hain,
who was organising protests nationally against sporting links with apartheid,
John Taylor, the ex Wales international and British Lion who was the
only rugby player who refused to play against the South Africans, and
Kath Eilbeck, a Swansea student in the autumn of 1969 who had her life
changed by taking part in the protest. Messages of support were also
sent by Swansea City and Swansea Rugby Club, and the event attracted
an international audience who heard first hand how opposition to racism
in sport can lead to a positive change in society. The meeting is available
to watch again on Stand Up to Racism' Youtube channel here
as is the Stand Up to Racism football fans online meeting here,
at which Shaka Hislop and Ged Grebby spoke, and where we were well represented
Both football clubs also helped publicise UN anti racism day by putting
out anti-racist statements and by visiting communities to spread the
word. On match day itself, both teams wore anti-racist t-shirts during
the warm-up, there was a massive banner with our slogan on it hung up
behind one of the goals, there were articles in the local programme
and all this was picked up on by the media in the run up to the match
(including by Shaka Hislop on BBC Five Live) and by Sky TV (to a lesser
extent) on the day. That morning, we held an impressive online rally,
featuring contributions from many speakers across Wales ranging from
well-known trade unionists, politicians and public figures to a diverse
range of football fans and others, all wanting to stand up to racism.
Speakers also came from the campaigns in Cardiff where Stand up to Racism
has been active in supporting victims of police actions. Simultaneously,
our reel of 'Take the Knee' videos of was played on a loop in the big
TV in the city centre (where we held a small socially distanced event),
and the civic buildings were lit in purple.
Of course it would have been much better if we could have been in the
ground and able to attend the game, but in the circumstances we made
a big impact; bringing long standing rivals together in this way and
on this scale is probably unprecedented, and this is something we hope
others may emulate.
Recent racist social media abuse Swansea players have suffered, along
with comments from government about refugees and institutional racism,
show that the fight against prejudice is far from won. However, what
we did made a difference. Very positively, both clubs want to continue
the regular dialogue with anti racist fans and discuss how we can continue
to make a real difference; for example, if the players decide that taking
the knee is no longer relevant, they suggest we can meet to discuss
putting something else even more effective in its place. We have involved
new members from a variety of political groups in the campaign, have
extended our reach, set up new SUTR groups and have hopefully put anti-racism
in a stronger position in Swansea, as we look to defend the right to
protest, welcome refugees and oppose racism in football.
Swansea Stand Up to Racism
Stand Up to Racism
Against Racism and Fascism
Stand Up to Racism
Stand Up to Racism
UK website and contact details here
printed in the programme, March 20th
saddens both clubs and our respective supporters that
we are still fighting this battle in 2021. Both Swansea City and Cardiff
City condemn discrimination and abuse of all kinds.
No one should be subjected to abuse for their ethnicity, gender or sexuality
and what we have witnessed recently, and historically, is wholly unacceptable.
Our clubs pride themselves on working with their respective communities
and supporters, as well as with the EFL and FA, on all anti-racism and
We want to ensure that racism and discrimination is not tolerated anywhere
within the game, as well as our respective clubs.
Our supporter groups are working continuously to ensure our stadiums
are places where everyone feels welcome.
Racism and discrimination has no place in society, let alone in football.
We believe the game we all love has the power to influence, the power
to make a difference and, more importantly, the power to change.
Rivals on the pitch. United against racism.
Its time for change.