“Does Finnish football operate a colour bar?” ask campaigners after comments from Premier League coach07 April 2014

CampaignersinFinlandhaveraisedconcernsoverthecommentsoftheheadcoachofaFinnishPremierLeagueclub,afterhetoldaleadingnewspaperthathewelcomedthefactthathissquadhasfewplayersofAfricanheritage.

‘We have players with names that Finns know’
Juha Malinen, coach of Finnish Premier League clubs RoPS, told a leading newspaper, “… we are probably the most Finnish team in the league. Just a few years back RoPS had thirteen black men. We’ve managed to put that completely behind us. We have recruited players with names that get pronounced correctly and the Finns know them.”

“And followers of the Finnish national football team in particular will know these names and their potential.”

Malinen’s club, RoPS, won the 2013 Suomen Cup and is competing to play in the UEFA Europa League qualifiers.

Reaction has come from Fare member group Liikkukaa- Sports For All who said, “We are concerned that these remarks indicate that Malinen’s club has a deliberate colour bar in its recruiting policy, and whether this is a generally accepted policy in Finnish football.

Reducing pool of talent
“We believe that Malinen is reducing the pool of potential talent to choose from and thereby putting his club at a disadvantage, and he is discriminating against black people with non-Finnish names by turning away players who would otherwise get hired on their playing skills.

“He needs to tell the club’s owners and supporters whether he is really recruiting the best team that the club can afford. Aside from potential foreign players who might face such discrimination, there are also 35,000 children born in Finland to parents of whom at least one is not of Finnish origin. Many of these children are from ethnic minorities non-Finnish names.

“Statements of this kind in one of the country’s most popular newspapers will discourage children from following their dreams of playing football: a loss of talent that will most certainly damage the prospects of the Finnish national team in the future.

‘Reassure all children they have a career in football’
“We call on the media, politicians and decision making bodies of Finnish football to voice their strong disagreement with the sentiments expressed by this prominent football coach, and to reassure all children that their future in Finnish football will depend on their skills and dedication, and not on irrelevant factors such as name or skin colour.”

Liikkukaa – Sports for All is Finlands largest umbrella organization for multicultural sports, they have expressed concerns that over the last 10 years out of 25 multicultural football clubs in Helsinki 21 have been forced to close, at a time when the number of migrants in Helsinki has more than doubled.