Written by Konrad Ostrowski
The concept of white privilege is simply that, from the moment of birth, white people are more likely to live a happy and successful life than ethnic minorities because they will not be discriminated against due to the colour of their skin. Examples of this can be seen in pretty much all aspects of society, one of which is football.
Manchester City player, Raheem Sterling, has recently commented on this, emphasising the lack of opportunities for black managers within British football. In particular, he questioned why white coaches such as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard were quickly given high profile jobs, at Chelsea and Rangers respectively, despite a lack of experience but black coaches like Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole have struggled.
Sterling’s point holds weight as there are currently just six non-white first-team coaches across the 92 Football League clubs. However, Lampard has responded with a rebuttal and has described Sterling’s comparison as “very casual” and “slightly wrong”.
Lampard added: “Those opportunities have to be equal for everybody, I think we all agree on that. But within that then there are the details of how hard you worked.
"I certainly worked from the start of my career to try to get this opportunity, and there's a million things along the way that knock you, set you back, that you fight against."
While I think it is important to note that there was no malice from Lampard, and he did go on to praise Sterling for standing up to racism in football over recent years, he seems to have completely missed the point.
Nobody is doubting the hard work that goes into becoming a head coach in football and Lampard has generally done a good job at both Derby and Chelsea. However, what he has failed to realise is that black coaches can put in the same commitment and earn the same stripes yet still fail to find a top job because there is a systematic prejudice against them.
This is something that neither Lampard nor any other white manager has experienced or ever will, and his dismissal of it shows that he’s never had to worry about such issues. Sterling’s examples of Campbell and Cole are fitting as both have the same qualifications and coaching badges as Lampard and Gerrard. Yet Campbell is in charge of fourth-tier side Southend United and Cole works under Lampard at Chelsea’s academy while Gerrard is at one of the biggest clubs in Scotland.
It also seems common that, when black coaches do get bigger opportunities, they don’t last long even if they show their worth. Darren Moore was sacked as head coach of West Brom last March despite the club sitting in 4th place in the Championship at the time, a position which would see them qualify for the promotion play-offs.
Another example is Chris Hughton, who earned Newcastle promotion back to the Premier League in his first full-time coaching role in 2010 but was sacked in December of the following season with the club sat in 12th. He was also dismissed by Brighton last summer despite winning promotion to the top division and surviving relegation two seasons in a row.
If English football is as serious as it claims about combating racism, then representation is never a bad place to start. There are undoubtedly talented black coaches out there who can provide success for the biggest clubs, but they aren’t getting the same opportunities as their white colleagues and it is important for that to be acknowledged by the likes of Lampard so it can be rectified.
From a white perspective, the privilege we hold may not always be immediately recognisable but there is no question about its existence. Football is often seen as a microcosm of wider society, and this can certainly be applied to racial issues. An awareness of white privilege and implementing systematic changes to combat it are vital in football, just as they are in all walks of life.