Black Lives Matter: Andy Walker hopes Scottish football will support movement when new season starts

In his latest column, Sky Sports’ Andy Walker says he hopes Scottish football will support the Black Lives Matter movement when the new season starts in August…

At a time when the eyes of the footballing world will be on us, I’m really hoping that Scottish football can add its voice and support to the Black Lives Matter movement when the long-awaited Premiership season kicks off on August 1.

  • Dyer: I had to work harder because I’m black
  • ‘Scottish football must take racism more seriously’
  • Jermain Defoe Q&A: Enough is enough

Ideally, the SPFL will be proactive and follow the powerful message and image of all the English football I’ve watched over the last couple of weeks with players, officials and coaching staff all taking the knee to protest against racism and the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

    Too many black lives are in danger unnecessarily and it’s undeniable that not enough black people are given senior posts and opportunities in my sport.

    I have no idea what it is like to live life as a black man in the UK but in the world of football that I have operated in since becoming a professional in 1984, I have spent time living in Scotland and England and have watched and played alongside some gifted and talented black players.

    It just can’t be acceptable knowing that so many black players have lit up my sport in that time and yet, so few have been able to extend their love of the game by being given an opportunity as a coach or manager. No matter the colour of your skin, everyone wants a chance to show what they’re capable of. It can’t be too much to ask.

    I was astonished to hear that my former team-mate Kevin Harper was the first black, Asian or minority ethnic manager of an SPFL club in 15 years when he got the job as boss of Albion Rovers in 2018. We had a brief spell as team-mates in 1998 with Hibs and his skill and ability helped me score a few goals for the Edinburgh side.

    In truth, he did a remarkable job for Albion Rovers, saving them from relegation against all odds by winning five of their last nine games in 2019. Kevin had a marvellous career, reaching the heights of the Premier League with Derby County and playing a significant role for Portsmouth in their promotion to England’s top flight in 2003.

    Obviously, he had plenty of knowledge to pass on and without his input, Albion Rovers may well have lost their senior status before he guided them to safety.

    It was also disheartening to hear Rangers striker Jermain Defoe recently questioning whether it was worth it for him to take his coaching badges given that none of the black players he has looked up to in his life are working in management.

    Surely there have to be opportunities for people like Kevin and Jermain? Role models in any walk of life are important and they are just two examples of how you can achieve success on the pitch before putting those life skills earned as a player of working as a team, achieving goals, overcoming setbacks and still gaining success into a coaching environment.

    That’s why it was welcome to hear the combined efforts of the Premier League, the PFA in England and the EFL launching a new coach placement scheme aimed at increasing the number of BAME players moving into full-time coaching roles in the professional game.

    An estimated 35 per cent of Premier League players are from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background, but there is nowhere near the same number in executive, managerial or leadership roles.

    Here in Scotland, it looks as though Alex Dyer can be an inspirational figure for young black men and women given that he has now signed a permanent two-year deal as manager of Kilmarnock after taking over from Angelo Alessio.

    Scotland manager Stevie Clarke appreciated the qualities that Alex brought as his assistant to Kilmarnock’s success over the last few years.

    In general terms, I honestly don’t know how some black players put up with the level of abuse they get in football and it’s important to recognise that nothing will change overnight.

    I played in a game against Rangers at Celtic Park in January 1988 when dozens of bananas were thrown at Mark Walters.

    It was shameful behaviour, but we let it wash over us and moved on to the next game.

    Paul Elliott was a team-mate of mine at Celtic a year later and he too had to endure some dreadful abuse. Again, we did nothing about it and ignored the problem.

    Fast forward 30 years to when Scott Sinclair and Moussa Dembele were starring in Scottish football and it was disgusting seeing them having to suffer from sickening monkey chants.

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