The Professional Footballers Association were in attendance at Springfields training ground last week to discuss the issues of equality and diversity within the game
The PFA have been visiting all 92 clubs to work with players on a specifically designed programme, focusing on acceptable and unacceptable language particularly towards other players and how it fits into the laws of the game - as well as informing players who have been subject or witnessed such abuse, the procedures and processes of reporting discrimination.
Delivered by former footballers who know the ins and outs of a dressing room, and by equality experts who have a clear understanding of the game, Michael Johnson, former footballer most notably for Notts County, Birmingham, and Derby spoke to the North End players touching on his experiences of witnessing unacceptable language in a dressing room.
Simone Pound, Head of Equality and Diversity for the PFA who was also present during the session last week, said on the initiative “It’s about tolerance and understanding – we’re all human at the end of the day, including players, and equality and discrimination is relevant to footballers as it is to anyone in any environment.
“The whole football industry is geared around the importance of inclusion and anti-discrimination, and as the player’s union, it’s very important for us to relate this to our players to prevent footballer’s falling foul of any regulations and incurring any bans or undue media attention on issues surrounding anti-discrimination.
“Every dressing room has banter, and jokes around but banter can have a significant impact on an individual – what you may consider funny actually may not be at all funny to them, and it may also be illegal because you’re falling foul of legalities around discriminatory language.”
The scheme has been long in progress and has been introduced after sanctions around discrimination took effect at the start of the 2013/14 season.
From footballers at the peak of their profession to academy scholars making their way through in the game, the PFA are ensuring footballer’s understand equality and diversity, the implications and issues, and have done so by making the session concentrated on the sport.
Simone continued, “We’ve been working on this over the past five years, and making sure those that deliver the session are trained in equality and diversity.
“As well as this, we’ve ensured our session is very football focused as obviously footballers are our target audience - for instance we have a DVD of other players talking about the impact language has had on them.
“We’ve had really positive feedback from the players and people are being very responsive and responsible towards the project.”