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Do the media enhance racial stereotypes in football? Illustrate your essay with specific examples.

The media are both a principal focus of imagination, creativity and identification and a principal source of information and representation; they help define both the facts of our social reality and our individual desires' (Couldry, 2000: 40). In this era of globalisation and Post Fordism where the boundaries of geographical barriers and culture are being broken down, 'mass communication' as a form of medium has a significant role to play. The media plays a very important role in the construction of perceptions and impressions through the representations of race, gender or nation. Keeping this power of the media in mind and the influence it has, I intend to discuss the representation of 'racial stereotypes in football'. The content of this essay highlights the important role that the media plays in influencing and bringing about a change.

The late 1970's saw the collapse of the post World War II state based economic models. It has been argued that, the world was no longer about 'nations and states' but an interconnected 'network society'. It was an 'intensive and extensive' period of Globalisation where the whole world was becoming 'smaller'.In an era of Globalization and Post Fordism, the barriers of geography, culture and distance have increasingly broken down. With the advent of 'Globalisation' and the breaking of the barriers the power of the media also increased because of the growth in the audience that could be targeted. Improvement in technology and the rise in various forms of 'new media' like internet etc. resulted in the rise of competition and the need for media corporations to report events or news which held the attention of the audience. This gave rise to a 'consumer culture' and therefore, embodied 'Post Fordism'.

The media does enhance racial stereotypes in football however in doing so it provides a platform for social issues to be addressed. By representing the racial abuse on and off the football fields it highlights the issue. However in representing the issues the media has to be very careful not to build negative stereotypes. As discussed earlier, the media can act as a tool of major social change by enhancing the positives of the black or communities considered black. Racist taunting has traditionally been viewed as a standard part of the game which should not be challenged by those experiencing victimisation. It is seen by perpetrators, senior officials, and even victims as a justified and justifiable tactic within the context of active sports competition. 'The actions of Nicky Winmar in 1993 however challenged the 'sanctity' of this practice'. Ensuring that the achievements of the community are highlighted beyond the sports field can result in the breaking down of the biggest stereotype that the community suffers from. Moving away from athleticism and the physical aspect of the black can help in the overall perception. John Barnes a football player and a victim of racial abuse rightly says, 'that while football can play its part, he didn't think it could do any more. Football is a part of society, like any industry" he said. "It's not going to stop people being racist. It's only through educating the young that the situation will improve. Football can't so any more, its society that has to change. John Barnes fought through the racist abuse he suffered to become arguably the most successful Black English player of all time. He told me about some of his personal experiences. "I remember as far back as 1981 playing at places like Millwall and West Ham when you'd get the usual monkey noises and bananas being thrown onto the pitch.

The involvement of the media along with the government along with the active participation of the audience is what can bring about a social change and eradicate racism in football. 'Throughout its history the game has shown a remarkable ability to re-invent itself as each new communication technology has come along. The challenge in the new media age is for the stakeholders in the game to strike a balance between commerce and culture, the local and the global and short- term gain and long term well being of an important cultural form'. Due to football's popularity as a game and the large number of supporters it has it is imperative for the media to strike a balance in its enhancement of racial stereotypes. 'with the media and clubs combining to increase the profile- and thus the profitability- of clubs, pay levels for the top level players are unlikely to drop soon, despite increasing resentment among many fans. The media attention is undoubtedly unprecedented with players' agents, Public Relations, tabloid and broadsheet reporters, paparazzi, tipsters ranging from club bouncers to ground staff, all combining to keep the stories, and the cash, coming.'(Boyle & Haynes, 2004: 162).Therefore the source of information used by the media is also something that needs to be taken care of. It is positive to bring up social issues and highlight it however, understanding the wide coverage and influence that the media has the manner in which it is represented is very important. Football has always been in the news for the 'racial chants and the hooliganism', however ensuring that such behaviour is curbed is also a responsibility of the media and the citizens. Just highlighting these issues without any clear indication to the solution is pointless. Media as a powerful tool of mass communication and football as a game of innumerable supporters should be used as a tool to curb the social issues existing. The media has been enhancing racial stereotypes however, along with the enhancement it should also work on enhancing the perception surrounding the 'coloured' players. It should act as a tool to break all stereotypes and highlight the other side of the 'physical' Africans doing well in other fields. With the help of the media and the common people the racial stereotypes can be broken and rebuilt to form a more positive perception of all races.

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