AMID last week’s John Terry saga came some interesting thoughts from John Barnes.
“Ninety-nine per cent of us, me included, are unconscious racists because we have an opinion on someone based on history, what we have seen and what we’ve seen on television,” he told The Independent.
“If a man turned up in a turban to manage Liverpool when I was playing for them I would question him.
“If a white German, who I’ve never met, turned up to manage Liverpool I’ll question him – but not as much as I would question the man with the turban based on the fact that ‘he’s from India – so what does he know?”
Such preconceptions are prevalent in rugby – an eyelid won’t be batted when a black man is playing wing or crashing the ball up... but in the tight five, or pulling the strings?
On the whole we like our players to conform to stereotypes shaped by history.
Consider the scenario, the Dragons have found enough funds down the back of the sofa to sign a prop to bolster their front row.
They sign a Georgian from the lower leagues in France – you’ve never heard of him but you think ‘great, he’s just what we need, a big unit with Desperate Dan stubble who will scrummage, scrummage and scrummage’.
But the deal collapses and instead the Dragons snap up a Fijian international who has just come on the market – you’ve never heard of him but fear ‘he’ll probably be great in the loose but will look like he’s wearing roller skates when going backwards in the scrum’.
The only way of changing such thoughts is through providing opportunities and showing presumptions to be wrong.
But football – a sport more diverse than rugby – has shown that it is easier said than done with black former internationals still struggling to get a foot on the managerial ladder.