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Charlton Athletic Race Equality (CARE)

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


"I learnt not to be racist because if we are all the same it will be boring." A refreshing attitude from a young English pupil at the Charlton Manor School.
A particularly refreshing attitude, perhaps, when you realise it comes from a child growing up in an area that has seen a significant level of racial unrest in the last few decades: the London Borough of Greenwich, in South East London. A borough whose main football club, Charlton Athletic, of the English Premiership, has put a lot of work into working for racial equality.
Robert Lee is manager of the CARE project. This is a project at the vanguard of community race relations work, and was set up as a joint venture between the football club and the local government authority.
"CARE was set up back in September 1992, mainly as a response to racial tension in the borough, which had led to three racially motivated murders in as many years," Robert told us.
"The area was undergoing a lot of social and urban regeneration and the club was aware that it was not representing its fan-base. The borough has a wide ethnic mix including Asian, Afro-Caribbean, Chinese, Vietnamese and Somalian people."
"CARE was set up to address the need to advocate multiculturalism and diversity and uses football and the arts as the focal point for bringing people together." Robert is a firm believer that you can change people's attitude and behaviours, but only if there are shared values. A common culture, if you like. "Football is an important part of our culture and can tell us a lot about our society."
However, this also means that football can be a barometer for social ills in a society. If we accept this then we cannot deny that racial problems still exist in many parts of the UK.
As recent as December of last year Everton Football Club threatened to stop selling tickets to their away games following racist chants made by a small number of their fans. This season the club have appointed their first black captain, Kevin Campbell.
A recent study by Leicester University suggests evidence of institutional racism within the majority of football clubs in England and Wales. Amongst its findings is the fact that 99% of administration staff within 88 of the 92 league teams are white.
More obviously, perhaps, there are problems on the terraces too. Some British football fans refuse to go to matches because of racial intimidation from other fans. Robert has heard firsthand how the "threat of abuse has kept many people away from football in the past".
But this is changing. CARE seeks to address the underlying problems of fear, ignorance and intolerance by promoting education and understanding. To do this it engages the whole community.
CARE's partners include the Police, the local government authority, Greenwich University, Greenwich Race Equality Council and many more. There are now nine staff working on lots of different schemes within local schools and community groups. They even work with the Youth Offending Team of the Police, so as Robert says, "we can work with people at risk of offending, and help find out what triggers racist behaviour."
Robert points out that most of the big clubs in England now have similar schemes, and that there has been massive success at places like West Ham, Leeds United and Sheffield United.
Robert is very keen that best practice be shared. He also works for Leicester City FC's programme. CARE, however, continues to be seen as being a leader in this kind of work.



Jon Wilkinson, February 2002

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