Society should learn anti-racism lesson from football, says Wenger

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - The Best FIFA Football Awards - Royal Festival Hall, London, Britain - September 24, 2018 Arsene Wenger during the awards Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley

LONDON (Reuters) - Society could learn a valuable lesson from soccer in the ongoing struggle against racial discrimination, according to former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

The killing of unarmed black man George Floyd by a white policeman in Minneapolis last month has prompted a wave of protests across the world and focussed attention on the Black Lives Matter movement.

Soccer players have shown their support for the movement and Wenger believes the fact that so many black players have made the grade shows the sport does not suffer from racism.

"I would say football is by essence anti-racist," Frenchman Wenger said in an interview with BeIN Sport on Friday.

"Why? Because you know that no matter if you're the son of the King of England or if you're black or white or red -- if you're good you play.

"And I would even say that football is an example of how the whole of society should work, because it's only based on merit and quality. If you're good enough, you play.

"Inside the game, there's no racism. Around football and in the stands it happens and we've seen it again in England with the national team away games."

Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling suggested this week that despite a large percentage of black players in the Premier League, representation in administration and coaching roles in England was lagging way behind.

Wenger, however, warns that those roles should also be filled on merit, not because of pressure to be inclusive.

"In France we created the concept of positive discrimination but that means you give positions to people because they're not given enough chances -- but this is also discrimination because people who are better may not get the job," he said.

"So you want people to give the same chances to everybody, no matter where you're from or how you look, but as well, not to create another discrimination because of artificial solutions."

"Sol Campbell is a manager -- I hope he will make it at the top level and I heard he's doing very good work. It's a kind of humiliation to say you just got this position because of where you're from. Personally, I fight for the merit."

The Premier League returns next week after a three-month suspension because of the coronavirus pandemic and while the top-flight clubs appear well-insulated against the likely economic devastation, Wenger fears lower level clubs could struggle to survive without fans in stadiums.

"I don't worry for the Premier League. You worry more for the 65 clubs who lose money (by playing behind closed doors)," Wenger said. "We live in a world today that's focussed on grouping the elite. You know well the case in England. In England the leagues are dying."

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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