Unite’s conference today resolved that our union will campaign to encourage all football, fans and supporters’ clubs to take a stand against the Football Lads’ Alliance (FLA).
The Premier League has already warned clubs about the FLA and that it is using fans and stadiums to push an anti-Muslim message. We are determined to expose its racist core, and that of the other far right groups marching together on our streets.
At a time of the longest pay squeeze for decades, and our NHS stretched to breaking point, they are diverting working class anger from the real issues and twisting people’s pride in their country.
They’re spreading hatred and division, especially at a time when we should be united behind football and our team. England have been fantastic representatives for their nation, embodying our diverse and talented youth, inspiring pride and underlining that there’s no room for racism and bigotry in our beautiful game, and nor in our communities.
Divided communities cannot achieve a better, more equal society.
The FLA was set up in 2017 after the London bombings. It claims to be against extremism, but uses Islamophobia to stir up fear and racism.
Thousands of its activists, and those from UKIP, For Britain and others, marched in London recently and will again in Leeds on Saturday.
They’re not interested in football’s positivity. They want to use the collective goodwill generated by the World Cup to cause harm.
They have no claim to patriotism or anti-extremism. They claim to love our country, but have no respect for it.
They physically attacked the police and hurled abuse at soldiers of the Royal Horse Artillery in Whitehall. They even ‘sieg heiled’ at the Cenotaph.
These groups use social media to unite and mobilise their supporters. This makes their movement dangerously different to those of the past.
Able to create distractions to what working class people should be protesting about.
Think of the impact of 15,000 people on the streets of their communities demonstrating against local hospital closures.
The trade union movement needs to tackle this head on. Through the great work of Show Racism the Red Card I’ve had the honour of working with players past and present, including one of my heroes John Barnes, in the effort to keep racism off our terraces and away from our kids.
SRtRC’s work started in the 1990s to combat the hate merchants who had been infecting our grounds since the 1970s. We can’t go back to those days. We must work with clubs and reach into working class communities to expose the lies and hate of groups like the FLA.
We can’t leave the resistance to traditional anti-racist groups alone. I call on all trade union members to become part of the opposition to the rise of a new far right street movement. Let not the peddlers of prejudice win.
A version of this comment first appeared in the Daily Mirror, July 2. Photos courtesy of the Daily Mirror