'White people have to speak up about racism' to spark change, says England boss Gareth Southgate

  • Video report by Sports Editor Steve Scott

England boss Gareth Southgate has told ITV News "white people have to speak up" about racism to spark change.

A host of high-profile people in the world of sport have spoken out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and Southgate thinks this could be a catalyst for change.

In recent weeks, demonstrations have gathered momentum across the globe following the death of George Floyd, who was brutally killed in custody by a police officer in America.

When asked about a lack of black manager and executives in English football and about the chances of England having a black manager, Southgate told ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott: "You only need one excellent candidate. If we can have a black president of the US then that should have been a forerunner to so many things."

He added: "I would hope that young people believe that’s possible. There's absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t be and I feel generally when I talk to young people anyway, the whole idea of prejudice and opportunity is changing but it can’t just be black people and black voices who are at the forefront of those discussions."

He said: "White people have to speak up about it as well, because the reality is that some of the thinking that has to change is within the white community and the people that can make some of these decisions, that need to made, are white people and so it can’t just be left to our players, it can't just be left to organisations like Kick It Out alone.

"Too much responsibility falls on their shoulders, other people have to step up."

Southgate said the younger generation are prepared to use their voice and 'rightly so'. Credit: PA

The Three Lions boss, who has had to deal with racism after his team were targeted in Montenegro and Bulgaria, said the recent anti-racism protests around the world will "change society".

Southgate told ITV News: "I don't think anyone could fail to be affected by what we've seen in America and the reaction to it.

"And it feels it is, and I know we've been here before so I'm almost loathed to say a moment of time that change will happen - but it does feel that way."

He added: "I know where my players would be on this and I can understand the anger, the passion, the sadness, I've heard the word tiredness as a phrase."

Southgate said: "I think people are, especially generationally, younger people, are not going to accept what they have witnessed happened to their parents, grandparents, over a period of time."

"They have a voice and they are prepared to use it and rightly so."

Southgate said one of the biggest crimes we have is that young people grow up thinking that to achieve certain positions, particularly those at a senior level, isn't possible

He said: "I've heard players talk about 'why would I take coaching qualifications when there isn't going to be an opportunity', so we have to look at ourselves as a sport to see why that's happened."

"It's clear that in positions of power or on the boards of organisations, on the boards in big businesses, then that representation of a more diverse society will be key in those decision making positions."

He adds: "To changing the mindset which probably a lot of us haven't been made aware of or maybe still aren't aware of that the inherited thinking that has affected opportunity for people for so long."

Sterling has been one of the leading voices and in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic passionately said on Newsnight that the only virus was racism.

He also questioned the opportunities people from black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds get at the top level of sport, citing how easy it has been for Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard to get top management jobs ahead of Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole.

Sterling pointed a finger at the long-running disparity between the number of high-profile BAME players and the dearth of those who go on to win significant managerial, coaching or administrative jobs.

"This is a time to speak on these subjects, speak on injustice, especially in my field," said the England international.

He said: "There’s something like 500 players in the Premier League and a third of them are black and we have no representation of us in the hierarchy, no representation of us in the coaching staffs. There’s not a lot of faces that we can relate to and have conversations with."

Sterling added: "With these protests that are going on it’s all well and good just talking, but it’s time that we need to have conversations, to be able to spark debates.

"But at same time, it’s coming together and finding a solution to be able to spark change because we can talk as much as we want about changing and putting people, black people, in these positions that I do feel they should be in."

Sterling questioned the opportunities people from black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds get at the top level of sport. Credit: PA

He added: "I’ll give a perfect one. There’s Steven Gerrard, your Frank Lampards, you have your Sol Campbells and you have your Ashley Coles. All had great careers, all played for England. At the same time, they’ve all respectfully done their coaching badges to coach at the highest level and the two that haven’t been given the right opportunities are the two black former players."

Sterling also feels there is a lack of representation in the game’s governance, suggesting a more diverse mix is needed in the corridors of power.

Asked what would represent success for the change movement, he said: "When there’s more black people in positions. When I can have someone from a black background for me to be able to go to in the FA with a problem I have within the club. These will be the times that I know that change is happening."