Hertfordshire councillors unite to condemn racist slurs against England footballers

Councillors unanimously backed a motion thanking the team

Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 9:38 am
Updated Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 9:41 am

Hertfordshire County Council has condemned the social media abuse directed at members of the England football team in the aftermath of the Euro 2020 final.

At a meeting of the full council on Tuesday, July 20, councillors unanimously backed a motion thanking the team – and manager Gareth Southgate – for their performance on the pitch.

But they also commended them for their ‘conduct throughout’ – pointing to the way they had ‘inspired and unified our country and communities’.

Messages of support were placed on a mural of Marcus Rashford - who was the target of racist abuse, along with other Black players, after the Euro 2020 final. Pic: Getty

Proposing the motion, Labour leader – and ‘enthusiastic’ football supporter – Cllr Judi Billing highlighted the ‘uncomfortable’ juxtaposition between nationalism and patriotism.

But she said team manager Gareth Southgate had “done an astonishing job in making patriotism also something about the celebration of diversity”.

She highlighted members of the team as a group of young footballers willing to engage in social issues.

And she said she had been “horrified” that – after the final of the Euro 2020 final – “racist slurs could possibly have been dragged out of what was a miserable experience for the whole nation”.

The motion – which received unanimous backing at the meeting – was seconded by group leaders of the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and independent groups.

Conservative council leader Cllr Richard Roberts said it has been a great Euro campaign.

But he said that it was marred by significant gate crashing and post match racism is desperate and unforgivable ‘for lads who had just given their all for their country’.

“It is right to call out the mean spirited and the hateful,” said Cllr Roberts.

“But most of all let’s celebrate the young team’s achievement – and who knows they might go on to greater things in the future.”

Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst said it was “utterly appalling” that young footballers had to suffer the ‘racism slurs’ following the final.

But he said that some of that stemmed from the behaviour of senior politicians.

He pointed to the failure of some MPs to condemn booing and chanting and to remarks that had criticised Marcus Rashford for playing too much politics and not practising too much football.

And he said it was “unfortunate” that senior politicians making those statements ‘allowed’ others on social media to condemn the players.

Fellow Liberal Democrat Cllr Laurence Brass suggested that the social media abuse of players was effectively ‘encouraged’ by the Home Secretary, when she said taking the knee was ‘gesture politics’.

And he added that he hoped the Olympic athletes in Tokyo would ‘take the knee’ like the “brave footballers” did – and that this time no Tories would criticise them for doing so.

Labour Cllr Tina Bhartwas said she was “sickened” by the racist abuse – and highlighted the impact the team had had.

“This team that Gareth Southgate has led has actually made me feel that I can be a part of – not only the football community – but the sporting community more widely,” she told the meeting of the full council.

“So I stand in solidarity with Saka, Rashford and Sancho. I am sickened by the racist abuse and as you can tell it’s incredibly personal for me.

“The abuse being hurled at the players is unacceptable. It’s also being hurled at people of colour football fans like myself and its awful.”

Meanwhile Cllr Sharon Taylor also referenced racist abuse against Lewis Hamilton following his win at Silverstone.