Friday, November 16, 2012

Local hero?

Of all the people making the football headlines of late, Peter Herbert has been arguably the most prominent - and the most surprising. One of the interesting things to emerge from BBC correspondent Dan Roan's profile of the chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers is that Herbert comes from Ashington. Before anyone gets too excited and hails him as a proud, outspoken, straight-talking Geordie, though, it's worth noting that "the teenage Herbert was the victim of merciless verbal and physical racial abuse, an ordeal that helps to explain his subsequent determination to speak out against discrimination at every opportunity". Not such happy memories of a childhood in the North East, then.

Roan's article strikes the right note, I think. Herbert has been pilloried as a deluded maverick crusader blundering around in a world he doesn't understand and as an energetic self-publicist eager to manufacture outrage or make inflammatory claims. There is probably some truth in that - and yet it's nevertheless also true that he has set about asking some tough but necessary questions of the football establishment with regard to its attitude towards race and racism. Provocative he may be, but maybe that's exactly what's needed when Kick It Out find themselves woefully underfunded and overstretched, and when few people seem to have batted an eyelid at John Terry being handed only a four-game ban for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand.




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