Inaugural lecture Jacco van Sterkenburg: Racial stereotyping, racism and inclusion in football

Football stadium
Portrait picture of Jacco van Sterkenburg

Friday 5 April 2024 Prof Dr Jacco van Sterkenburg will accept his endowed chair “Race, Inclusion and Communication, specifically in relation to Football and Media” at Erasmus University Rotterdam. The chair came about from a unique collaboration between Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC) and three football organisations: anti-discrimination organisation Fare, footballers' union FIFPRO and the European Football Association UEFA.

The collaboration with Fare, FIFPRO and UEFA aims to tackle major societal challenges regarding racism and inclusion in football and media, but even in the wider football industry. Jacco is taking up that challenge with PhD candidate Palesa Mashigo and other colleagues on four themes: football leadership, racism among footballers, online racism and racism in amateur football.

Racism in football on television

During his inaugural lecture, Jacco addresses the explicit, but especially implicit and institutional forms of racism in football. For instance, football commentators and media audiences still quite often use traditional racial-ethnic stereotyping. This is evident according to research on significance of skin colour and ethnicity in men's football on television in four European countries for which Jacco received a NWO Vidi grant. He is doing this together with PhD students Arne van Lienden (now a PhD student) and Carmen Longas Luque. He likes to link this to education and regularly invites master's students or interns to join him, to familiarise them with this type of research.

White men in positions of power

Furthermore, Jacco addresses the lack of racial-ethnic diversity and gender diversity among people in positions of power within the football industry, e.g. administrators and coaches. For example, he discusses mechanisms involved and why many football boards consist of mainly white men. He also outlines how leaders in football in Europe actually view racism themselves.

Lack of self-reflection

In doing so, he arrives at one of the items on his future research agenda: self-reflection. Jacco is looking for new ways to increase self-reflection among sports journalists and high-ranking people in European professional football. Research shows that self-reflection among people in these positions often leaves much to be desired when it comes to implicit racism, stereotyping and institutional racism.

The role of skin colour and ethnicity in gaming

Another topic within his future research plans is football games. Games like EA Sports FC are very popular among young people and Jacco wants to do more research into how this recreational gaming is experienced. For instance, how are footballers rated by EA's data reviewers and how do gamers deal with this: which players do they choose and why, and how do skin colour and ethnicity possibly play a role in this? In addition, the experience of footballers themselves is on the agenda. How do men and women of colour in professional and amateur football experience racism and discrimination?

A more inclusive culture and society

Jacco's endowed chair touches on a range of issues that transcend sport and media. For example, racism and inclusion affect the daily lives of many people. This research will contribute to theory building and with the results the football industry and media can work towards a more inclusive culture. Hopefully, that can lead to broader social awareness and thus a more inclusive society.

Related content
Everyday Racism: The case of football, media and leadership
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Palesa Mashigo and Jacco van Sterkenburg study diversity in football and help women and people with an ethnic minority background pursue a career in football.
Jacco van Sterkenburg en Palesa Mashigo 2
Jacco van Sterkenburg is appointed as endowed professor at Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC).
Portrait picture of Jacco van Sterkenburg
Jacco van Sterkenburg has received a NWO-Vidi grant to support his research on racial/ethnical stereotypes in men's televised football and the audience…
Portrait picture of Jacco van Sterkenburg

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