Sports minister Mims Davies has urged fans to be ‘intolerant of intolerance’ and report anyone they witness using discriminatory language at sports events.
In her first major speech since being appointed as sports minister, Davies set out her vision for a more accessible, inclusive and safer space for people to play and watch sport.
The Conservative MP for Eastleigh was speaking a week after she summoned football leaders to a summit to discuss what can be done to tackle what seems to be a rising tide of discriminatory behaviour in the game.
Sports minister Mims Davies has urged supporters to be ‘intolerant of intolerance’
A banana skin was thrown on the pitch at the Emirates Stadium during the north London derby
Speaking to reporters after her speech in Westminster on Tuesday, Davies said she hoped to be able to announce a time and place for the summit by the end of the month but explained that she does not want it to be just a talking shop.
Pointing to the example from the weekend when two Southampton supporters were ejected for making plane gestures to Cardiff fans, only days after striker Emiliano Sala was confirmed dead after a crash in the English Channel, Davies said it was also time for fans to police themselves.
She explained: ‘I think there’s an opportunity here with fans saying that was unacceptable behaviour and it was not going to be tolerated by them.
‘This is coming from fans, this isn’t necessarily coming from me. It was very, very clear to me that the first thing that needed to be tackled was this sweeping and insidious feeling that there was nothing that we could do about it.
‘We cannot just allow it. Just call it out. Our fans have had enough of this.
‘You do not see it in a pub on a Friday night. Why is it OK to use the cloak of football for intolerance? It’s not, stop it.’
Mo Salah was subject to Islamophobic abuse while for playing for Liverpool against West Ham
A number of Chelsea fans were alleged to have racially abused Raheem Sterling
After a spate of incidents involving fans at Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and elsewhere, Davies said she was not sure if the problem was actually getting worse or it just felt that way because more people were reporting incidents, but she explained she did not want to sit back and do nothing.
‘The good news is that people have stopped being tolerant of intolerance,’ the 43-year-old said.
‘You know who’s doing this. You go week in, week out, and sit in the same places with people you know – if you don’t like what they’re saying and they’re doing it in the name of your club, call it out, report it, stop it.’
Davies, who is MP for Eastleigh, has summoned football leaders to a summit about the issue
Davies, who took over the role in November when Tracey Crouch resigned in protest over a delay in the introduction of reduced stake limits for fixed odds betting terminals, also used her speech to set our her priorities for British sport.
She said she wanted to continue to ‘harness the power of sport’ to maximise the UK’s global impact, promote integrity in sport and increase ‘engagement’ in sport, particularly in schools and among groups who are currently not exercising enough or involved in sport.
With those goals in mind, she signalled her support for continuing the high levels of funding in Olympic and Paralympic sport, backed plans to bid for the 2026 Ryder Cup and 2030 World Cup and urged the media to cover women’s sport better.
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