Stamford Bridge was 'hotbed of racism' in the 80s… but not now, says Bates
20:48 GMT, 30 October 2012
Ken Bates has saluted the strides made towards multi-cultural harmony in football and described how Stamford Bridge was once a 'hotbed of racism'.
Writing in Leeds United’s match programme, ahead of their Capital One Cup tie with Southampton, the former Chelsea chairman welcomed the way racism has come under the spotlight and insisted the problem bears no relation to 30 years ago, when it was the scourge of football.
Revealing how the National Front used to set up camp at Stamford Bridge on matchdays, the Leeds chairman wrote: ‘The ongoing debate about racism is good, because the issue is being raised and discussed, but I think it is fair to look back and see how much progress has been made during, in historical terms, a relatively short time.
Controversial: Ken Bates was chairman and owner of Chelsea from 1982 till 2003
Moved on: Bates now owns Leeds United
‘In the 1980s, Stamford Bridge was a hotbed of racism. The National Front sold their magazines in the Fulham Road and used to wait in the pub opposite to learn the team selection. If they (the Chelsea players) were all-white, the National Fronters used to walk across and buy their tickets.
‘Our technical director Gwyn Williams introduced the first black kid, one Paul Canoville, a pacey young winger. His first experience was when Chelsea played at Selhurst Park. As a sub, he was warming up and had bananas thrown at him.
‘The following week, he made his debut at Stamford Bridge and got a lot of abuse. At the end of the game, I went on the pitch and walked off with my arm round his shoulder.
‘It is a lot different today, though it has been a long tortuous journey. Slowly, things started to change. Thirty years on, it is a different world. Today the furore is of a black verbal abuse – not to be condoned or tolerated in the least – but meanwhile let us appreciate the progress that has been made.’