Non League Daily

PFA Executive believes key to equality begins in Non-League

Former Footballer and now PFA Equalities Education Executive, Jason Lee, believes that the key to equality in Football starts beneath the Football league.

Currently working with senior professionals both on and off the field, Jason knows just how badly discriminatory comments can affect a player.

The former Kettering Town striker said: ''The lower leagues shouldn't be undermined and the importance of getting it right in a lower league could be fundamental in what we are trying to achieve.

''Equality in Football is a massive issue and if we can get it right from the bottom, then we can put a foundation in place which the higher leagues can work towards.''

Having played for both Mansfield Town and Illkeston Town, Jason believes he knows how big of a difference getting it right at lower leagues can be.

But with not a lot of publicity, everything that Jason is working towards could fundamentally be undermined by the actions of the more marketable clubs.

He added: ''Discrimination is always there and what it does is it brings attention and highlights the things that we are trying to explain. At the end of the day – some players and people are still unaware of what is deemed as offensive to people.

''You've seen that this season with Dave Whelan speaking out, he said a few things which he feels are acceptable, but in this day and age, more people are becoming aware that you can not say things like this any more. It is all about trying to educate people both young and old.

''If we are talking about people from an older generation then they usually have a different mentality about employing people and for us it is all about trying to change that mentality and question some of their beliefs and see if they will give the younger generation an opportunity.

''But from a legal point of view, it doesn’t matter what you think, so if you say this, that or the other and its deemed offensive then you will be held accountable.''

The former Notts County manager also believes that despite the lack of minority managers in the Football League, it may not be as simple as asking questions to why that is.

''Management is so cut throat, being a minority in that sense makes no difference. If you go in and you flop, then you'll be lucky to get another opportunity. Management really is that simple.

''We are getting there though, obviously Jimmy (Floyd Hasselbaink) went to Burton and there is more to come. Obviously Chris Hughton is still out there waiting and at the end of the day, if people do a good job then they'll get another opportunity.

''We just need to be positive at the moment. If there are going to be more opportunities for people to come through then we need to highlight and promote it, but we'll realistically take anything at the minute.

''There are small strides proving we are getting there very very slowly and we need to celebrate everything that comes our way.''

Leek Town supporter and season ticket holder, Andy Mellor, also believes that the time is right for Football to embrace ethnic minorities.

''People are no longer naïve enough to believe that because of your skin colour or the place you were born you are not suitable to do a certain job.

''Football is built on the foundations of the working-class and with that in mind, (Football) should be allowed to be embraced by all.

''There is a sense that this is slowly being changed however, and you can feel it in the terraces and on the pitch. It is a great feeling.''

With more black and ethnic minority managers coming into the fold, there is a great belief that discrimination might slowly be being kicked out of Football.

The likes of Chris Hughton and Hope Powell have made waves in recent times promoting what black managers can do and Jason Lee wants more ethnic minorities to be recognised.

Either in terms of coaching, punditry or anything which could come after a footballer’s career, both Jason and the PFA are working strongly towards equality in football.

Interview and photo by: Wes McGeechan

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