Gary Neville: More leadership and action needed to eradicate racial injustice in football

Neville: "It feels like over the last few weeks that the talking has got to stop, the campaigning has got to stop. We've got to put it into action"

Gary Neville has called for action to tackle the lack of diversity at boardroom level
Image: Gary Neville has called for action to tackle the lack of diversity at boardroom level

The time for talking about the lack of diversity on the boards of sports governing bodies "has got to move into action", according to Gary Neville.

On the eve of the Premier League restart, Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling expressed his tiredness at the treatment of black people in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, proclaiming in a powerful message: "Change needs to happen and happen now".

Kick It Out's chair Sanjay Bhandari has spoken this week of setting diversity targets of 20 per cent in boardrooms being people of colour with 25 per cent of coaches being from BAME backgrounds.

Raheem Sterling, Manchester City
Image: Manchester City's Raheem Sterling has backed the campaign for racial justice

As co-owner of League Two side Salford City, Neville admits his club has fallen short in providing a platform to counteract the lack of BAME coaches in English football - and the talking has got to stop.

"I think it has to happen now," said Neville when Bhandari's targets were put to him. "We don't do enough at Salford City. In the last six to 12 months, I was seen as a leader at my former club Manchester United but you never heard a word from me on racism throughout my whole football career while I was playing.

"That's not leadership. And I reflect back upon the meeting I had with Raheem four years ago, and upon my time with Salford City in these last 12 to 18 months and we don't do anywhere near enough. Now is the time to stop talking and we have to be judged as leaders.

"We'll only be judged over the next few months on what we do and not by what we say. At least we are talking about it now, but that talking has got to move into action"
Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville

"Micah [Richards] has spoken of the idea that he hasn't had opportunities because of the colour of his skin, his post code and where he was born. That is ridiculous. In this country, we talk about opportunity, but it depends upon where you live and whether you get a good education, how you're treated and the job that you get. It cannot happen.

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"It feels like over the last few weeks that the talking has got to stop, the campaigning has got to stop. We've got to put it into action. I feel that personally, and we'll only be judged over the next few months on what we do and not by what we say. At least we are talking about it now, but that talking has got to move into action."

Richards: 'People are scared to put forward applications'

Micah Richards
Image: Micah Richards has called for equal opportunities for retired black players

Former Manchester City and Aston Villa defender Richards joined Neville as part of the assembled team of Sky Sports pundits on the night of the Premier League's return, and the 31-year-old has been vocal in his backing of the Black Lives Matter campaign.

Richards agrees with Sterling's complaint that there are not enough black, Asian and minority ethnic managers and coaches in the top four divisions. He believes people should still be appointed on merit but has called for equal opportunities for retired black players.

With the world in the shadow of the terrible events in Minneapolis last month and the death of George Floyd, the former defender told Sky Sports: "I don't want people feeling sorry for people.

9:24
Micah Richards, Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher discuss the problem of racism in football and power the sport has to affect change.

"I want the right opportunity for the right person, not based on their colour. I don't want to be given a manager's role or a coach's role just because I'm black. You've got to be good enough. All we're asking for is a fair opportunity and that's it, it really is as simple as that.

"I know a couple of my former team-mates who have retired. They want to go into coaching, they've got their badges, but they are actually scared to put their applications forward because they pretty muqch know what the answer is going to be.

"I think we need to get out of that mentality as well. If it's going to change. We can't just think we're not going to get a job. We've got to take control of the situation and say, 'no, actually, I believe in my ability and I'm going to give it a go'."

Carra: 'Rashford, Sterling have shown new level of courage'

Marcus Rashford
Image: Marcus Rashford's campaign for free school meals prompted a government U-turn

Meanwhile, Jamie Carragher has heaped praise on Marcus Rashford after the Manchester United and England forward forced the British government into performing a U-turn on providing school food vouchers for struggling families over the summer holiday.

British ministers originally said school food vouchers would not be available over the long holiday, prompting the 22-year-old to take up the cause and reveal how he had relied on such support as a boy.

After successfully campaigning for the aid to be extended, Carragher admitted Rashford had shown courage beyond his years.

Marcus Rashford 0:24
PFA deputy chief executive Bobby Barnes is encouraged by Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling using their status to enforce societal changes

Carragher told Sky Sports: "Every generation of player thinks they're tougher than the next. We think life gets easier and that the next generation is softer. Being tough when I was playing and before my time was kicking Raheem Sterling in the first row of the stands in the first 10 minutes. That was being tough.

"What we see now, the game is more technical,but in terms of what these lads are doing now in their early 20s, I couldn't do that. I don't think I'd be in a position at 23 or 24 where I'd be standing up and taking on the government. Marcus Rashford has taken on the government and made them change policy. It's unbelievable, really.

"Raheem speaks so well, thinking back to the Chelsea game last season where he had the courage again to speak using the social media platforms. It's a different type of leadership and a different type of courage to the one we associated with as players, 20-30 years ago.

"The players now are much tougher than I was. What's happening now, and how players are using their platform and status to talk about matters which are not just football is something we should all be proud of. They should be commended for it."

Rashford: 'This generation is not afraid'

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Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford has thanked everyone who helped his campaign to get the government to change their mind and provide free school meals through the summer holidays

Rashford says his generation are "not afraid to stand up and be counted" after he successfully campaigned to extend the free school meals scheme for the summer holidays.

The £15-a-week food vouchers will now be made available to around 1.3m children in England for a further six weeks after the Manchester United forward pressured the government into reconsidering scrapping the initiative following the ease of coronavirus restrictions.

Having grown up in one of the poorest areas of Manchester, Rashford knows only too well the effects that food poverty can have.

"It wasn't just the food situation I was thinking about when I was raising the awareness, but mental health - the general well-being of people and families.

"It might not seem like a big thing but not eating the right amount of meals every day can have a real impact on your life."

Read the full exclusive interview here

Radebe praises PL, Sterling and Rashford

Nicolas Pepe, Matteo Guendouzi and Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal take a knee in support of Black Lives Matter before the friendly match against Brentford 0:31
Leeds legend Lucas Radebe says the Premier League can play a massive role in the Black Lives Matter movement

Leeds legend Lucas Radebe says the Premier League can play a massive role in the Black Lives Matter movement and has praised Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford for using their platform to influence positive change in society.

A number of Premier League players have voiced their support for the movement and protests in recent weeks following the death of George Floyd in the United States.

Premier League players' names will be replaced on the back of their shirts with 'Black Lives Matter' for the first 12 games when the season restarts, and Radebe believes that will create a message which will extend beyond football.

"That is absolutely powerful, it goes all the way around the world," Radebe told Sky Sports News.

"People realise now that this is the time where people should be united for one great cause and it's the most powerful statement that the Premier League has taken. And I hope it will bring peace and harmony to all the people affected.

"We are still suffering from social injustice, and I think this has really deep scars in people minds and hearts, to see that's still happening and we are still fighting the racial lines - it's a horrible thing.

"Let's leave the talks aside and let's act. The way the Premier League is acting is very encouraging. It's a great movement and we have to all act for unity and peace."

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