Friday, June 14, 2024

Bukayo Saka: Black Footballers Partnership criticises media for coverage after England’s defeat to Iceland

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The Black Footballers Partnership (BFP) has criticised elements of the English media for using a photo of Bukayo Saka alongside critical reports of the England team in the aftermath of Friday’s shock home loss to Iceland.

England suffered a 1-0 defeat at Wembley in their final warm-up match ahead of Euro 2024.

The BFP says the decision by multiple outlets to use photos of Saka – who only played for 25 minutes as a second-half substitute – had echoes of the treatment of Black players that was called out by Raheem Sterling many years ago.

The campaign group, formed in 2021 as a strategic organisation to unite Black current and former players and give them a voice, said it was unfair to single out Saka, instead of white England players who also failed to impress and were on the pitch for longer.

Current Chelsea winger Sterling highlighted the issue in 2018, when he accused some sections of the media of helping to “fuel racism” in their portrayal of elite Black players.

The BFP has called for fairness and unity among media and supporters, with England preparing to fly to Germany on Monday ahead of their first Euro 2024 match against Serbia on Sunday.

The campaign group released a song in support of the England team – entitled It’s OUR team – to try to stave off a repeat of what they called “the disgusting racist wave that followed England’s exit from Euro 2020”.

Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were targeted with online racist abuse following the defeat on penalties to Italy in the final at Wembley.

In a statement, the BFP said: “Here we are, six years after Raheem Sterling called the press out for fuelling racism, with no obvious lessons learnt among our globally respected and influential press.

“Following England’s underwhelming loss to Iceland, and before we have even started the tournament, a number of leading British papers exclusively used photos of Bukayo Saka – who played only 25 minutes of the game – to illustrate articles that sought to criticise the entire team.

“This is simply not on. The press should know they play a part in setting the atmosphere for how fans see the England team.

“Black Footballers Partnership calls on journalists, as well as fans, to be unifiers, not dividers, as Euro 2024 begins in less than a week’s time, and to review its hiring practices to increase diversity at senior levels.”

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