Following a racist tweet posted by Lord Alan Sugar, Kick It Out's Chair, Lord Herman Ouseley, has written a column for the Metro Newspaper on the incident and the wider challenges that remain in the battle against racism in football.


First Lord Sugar tweeted a picture of the Senegal national team over a picture of sunglasses and handbags with the comment, ‘I recognise some of these guys from the beach in Marbella. Multi tasking resourceful chaps’.

Then people complained.

Then Lord Sugar defended his tweet and finally took it down with a post that fell some way short of an apology.

‘Just been reading the reaction to my funny tweet… Seems it has been interpreted in the wrong way as offensive by a few people . Frankly I can’t see that I think it’s funny. But I will pull it down if you insist.’

Finally, he actually apologised.

‘I misjudged me earlier tweet. It was in no way intended to cause offence, and clearly my attempt at humour has backfired. I have deleted the tweet and am very sorry.’

This coming from one of Britain’s most respected business leaders, a man who was born in to an East End Jewish family and is proud of his roots, and a former Tottenham Hotspur chairman. Someone, in other words, who ought to know about racist stereotypes.

It shows we have a long way to go.

Any assumption made about somebody based purely on their race is racism. There’s no getting away from that.

Even when the perpetrators think they’re being funny – or with the misguided aim of being supportive even – it’s unacceptable.

When some Manchester United fans sang songs about Romelu Lukaku they thought they were being that – supportive – despite the offensive words. ‘It was banter, it was good-natured,’ those fans said, but it wasn’t and we wrote to the club to ask them to take action and to their credit they did.

Both the club and the player asked the fans to stop in public and social media statements, and that minority of fans did.

Son Heung Min was subjected to chants of ‘DVD’ while playing at Millwall in the F.A. Cup and was abused in the same way by a West Ham fan who pulled up alongside the South Korean international at a junction and filmed the episode.

When Son scored a brilliant goal against West Ham at Wembley last season he went over to the away fans and gave them the ‘shush’ gesture.

Both Millwall and West Ham condemned the incidents but again it shows that it is more important than ever to work to change attitudes.

Some of the stereotypes are racist, some are just lazy. A common one still heard is that foreign players are ‘soft’ and they cheat. We know neither is true but they persist. But they all need to go.

We at Kick It Out – about to mark our 25th year of fighting discrimination and prejudice in the game – are working hard in this area.

Our education manager, Troy Townsend, runs a project called Equality Inspires, in partnership with the Premier League.

He goes into Premier League academies, schools and colleges and works with the clubs and the players to challenge received views and unconscious biases.

These deal with racism and homophobia but also they are designed to raise awareness of the number of footballers of different faiths in the game and to be aware of making harmful and offensive assumptions.

Even during this World Cup, the former Manchester United defender Patrice Evra was upbraided by many on social media for appearing to patronise his fellow TV panelist Eniola Aluko for her football knowledge – which, based on her 102 caps for England and all the trophies she’s won at Chelsea, is considerable.

So Lord Sugar may be one of the highest profile figures to say or tweet something offensive – but he isn’t alone.

It’s our job at Kick It Out – and indeed everyone in the game – to challenge and re-educate those offenders so that football can be enjoyed by everyone regardless of their faith, gender, sexual orientation, disability or ethnicity.