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We must change the toxic narrative on immigration


3 min read

Gary Lineker's vocal outrage at the government’s use of language in their announcement on new migration policy kick started this whole debate on freedom of speech, impartiality and government influence.

The overwhelming support Gary received from fellow presenters and colleagues at the BBC, as well as the general public, shows that there is huge public support for people seeking asylum in the United Kingdom. Indeed, recent polls show that almost 70 per cent of those polled recently said the government was right to admit 150,000 Ukrainians, and a YouGov poll in December found that only 10 per cent of the public supported the government’s policy of sending migrants to Rwanda.

Sport in the UK, just like every other area of British life, owes a massive debt to migration

Sport transcends national, racial, religious, cultural and political boundaries. It builds friendship and trust, positively impacting people’s opinions and perceptions of migrants and asylum seekers. It is the great leveller.  Who hasn’t asked the question, “Who do you support?” as an ice breaker? Sportspeople, footballers in particular, have a unique cultural power; they speak to the average person on the street from a position that isn’t influenced by left or right-wing political dogma, and, in this instance, they clearly speak for the large majority of the general public.

Sport in the UK, just like every other area of British life, owes a massive debt to migration. Who would make up England’s national football team were it not for migration? During the World Cup last year Show Racism the Red Card (SRTRC) promoted a specially designed football shirt to symbolise the rich heritage of the whole team entitled FabricOfEngland, including Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Harry Kane. The shirt has since been donated to a primary school in Darlington. From footballers to athletes and from doctors to engineers, the UK is major beneficiary of hundreds and hundreds of years of migration.

As I said in a statement yesterday: “Now Gary has been reinstated, it is vital to keep the discussion going on the government’s Illegal Migration Bill addressing the level of concern which has been raised.  We need to be aware of the impact and damage that this legislation could have on some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Show Racism the Red Card will continue to support the excellent refugee and migrant organisations in their campaigns.”

And that’s why we are delighted to be working with IMIX and Migrant Voice on an important new project that will see us use education and the high profile of sporting personalities to reset the narrative on immigration.  Far from being a negative issue, immigration is something that has made Britain great and at Show Racism the Red Card we celebrate the impact migrants have made to our society.

This new Illegal Migration Bill and the toxic, incendiary and fear-mongering narrative that surrounds it shows why this project is so needed now. Both the policy and its language will have far-reaching impact on the lives of thousands, but also attempts to foster a more divisive society. This project will work to challenge such unhelpful, inflammatory narratives and present the amazing true-life reality of our communities.

As a longstanding patron of SRTRC we could not be prouder of Gary for using his platform to raise the concerns many of us hold. It’s up to all of us to continue sending that message loud and clear, migrants are welcome here.


Ged Grebby, founder and chief executive of Show Racism The Red Card.

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