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Shocking study reveals European commentators criticise dark-skinned footballers more for poor intelligence

Commentators were about 7 times more likely to talk about a darker-skinned player in reference to power, and 3 times more likely to talk about darker-skinned players in reference to speed.

Published: 30th June 2020 04:35 PM  |   Last Updated: 30th June 2020 04:36 PM   |  A+A-

Manchester United's French striker Anthony Martial (C) vies with Sheffield United's Norwegian midfielder Sander Berge (R) during the English Premier League football match

Manchester United's French striker Anthony Martial (C) vies with Sheffield United's Norwegian midfielder Sander Berge (R) during the English Premier League football match. (Photo | AFP)

By Associated Press

LONDON: The football players' union in England believes racial bias is evident during broadcasts of matches based on the language used by commentators in European leagues.

The study conducted by Danish research firm RunRepeat in association with the Professional Footballers’ Association found 63% of praise regarding a player’s intelligence was aimed at those with lighter skin, while 63% of criticism for a player’s intelligence was aimed at those with darker skin tones. The findings also show that 60% of praise for work rate was directed at lighter-skinned players.

The study looked at 80 matches in the Premier League as well as the top divisions in Italy, Spain and France this season. They analysed 2,073 statements made by broadcasters speaking in English working for media outlets in Britain, the United States and Canada.

It also said commentators were about seven times more likely to talk about a darker-skinned player in reference to power, and three times more likely to talk about darker-skinned players in reference to speed.

“To address the real impact of structural racism, we have to acknowledge and address racial bias. This study shows an evident bias in how we describe the attributes of footballers based on their skin colour,” PFA equalities executive Jason Lee said. “Commentators help shape the perception we hold of each player, deepening any racial bias already held by the viewer.”

The union wants media organizations to provide training on unconscious bias to staff to promote diversity.

“When you’re playing football and someone is painting the picture that you’re powerful, you’re quick, you’re aggressive, they’re great traits to have," Lee said, "but you’re not saying ‘industrious, intelligent, creative' — you’re not using that terminology.

“Already it’s living up to that stereotype of black athletes — you can’t always say that a black athlete is going to be quick and is going to be strong. If you keep stigmatizing people and saying this, that and the other, how is that athlete going to go from the training and playing field and be taken seriously as maybe a coach, a manager or another position of power?”



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