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BBC hold ‘avoiding racial bias’ training session with on-air talent ahead of the new football season

The BBC held an ‘avoiding racial bias’ training session with their sports commentators on Tuesday, listing the words and phrases which they must avoid during the new season.

‘Cakewalk’, ‘nitty gritty’, ‘sold down the river’ and ‘uppity’ were among those on the banned list, Sportsmail can reveal, along with ‘blackballed’, ‘blacklisted’, ‘black mark’ and ‘whiter than white’.

Those tuning into the webinar were also warned about how describing black players as having ‘pace’ and/or ‘power’ could see them ‘fall into the trap of racial stereotyping’.

The session was staged by the BBC, in partnership with the PFA, whose recent study into racial bias in football commentary shone a light on everyday language which could offend.

A total of 450 people took part in the session, Sportsmail understands, with the BBC inviting Sky Sports, ITV, BT Sport, Premier League production and talkSPORT to dial in.

BT pundit Rio Ferdinand was among several speakers on the webinar, which was chaired by Sky’s Jessica Creighton. 

Sportsmail previously revealed that ‘nitty gritty’ was on the banned list at Sky amid concerns over links to slavery. In a guide sent to participants of Tuesday’s call, explanations were given for each phrase that should be avoided by commentators and co-commentators ahead of the new season.

On describing a player as having ‘pace and power’, the guide added: ‘Is there a danger of spreading a perception that black players’ success is purely based on their athleticism and doesn’t require hard work and intelligence? Do you need to spend more time thinking about how to explain the variety of reasons for a black player’s success?’

Sadio Mane, Adama Traore and Michail Antonio were listed as examples of those who have been said to have these attributes above others.

There were also calls for more diversity in journalism. ‘The research suggests it is time for all broadcasters to think carefully about some of the language used in football and the way we describe players,’ the on-air talent were warned.

In June, research by RunRepeat, in association with the PFA, showed that ‘deep-rooted racial stereotypes’ are promoted in football commentary. It was written that players with a lighter skin tone received significantly more praise for their intelligence, quality, work rate and versatility. Danny McLoughlin, the director of RunRepeat, also spoke on Tuesday’s webinar.

As per the BBC’s guide on Tuesday, the study also found players with a darker skin tone were more likely to have ‘their performances reduced to their physical characteristics or athletic abilities’.

The Premier League season starts on Saturday, with commentators and co-commentators having been urged to do their homework ahead of going on air in 2020-21.

Meanwhile, UK Sport, Sport England and the other Home Country Sports Councils will commission research and devise a plan to tackle the lack of diversity in sport at all levels in the United Kingdom. Sport England announced a review of rules governing the make-up of sports boards in July.


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