Unexpected problems

Unexpected problems

When we started working with the survey on racism in football we certainly did not foresee the type of problems that we would run into.

But let's start with the positive things.

Agreeing with Kick It Out on the questions went smoothly, and picking the countries in which to run the survey was not very hard either.

Since we did not have the man power to set the survey up in all the world’s countries, we decided to focus on the ones where we knew we could get a minimum of 100 participants.

We have colleagues from all over the Globe so we could solve some of the translations internally. For the other languages we would use an online translation service.

These were the chosen languages: Arabic, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Ukrainian.

Easy peasy.

To launch this project would be a walk in the park, we thought.

But oh, how wrong we were. Instead an unexpected troublesome period began.


It started when we looked closer at Kick It Out’s suggested wording for some of the questions.

Like this one:

Would you feel comfortable with a BAME player representing your nation or club team?”

”BAME” stands for ”Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic” – but nobody at our office was familiar with that expression.

When asking our English- and French-speaking Canadian colleague Stefanie, she wrote (in our Slack channel):

”I have never in my life heard that expression – and I just conferred with another native english speaker and they have never heard it as well ... so probably a good thing to change it from that acronym haha”

So we decided that we could not use that acronym in the survey.

But would it work if we wrote the whole phrase?

Would you feel comfortable with a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic player representing your nation or club team?”

Not really.

It would not make sense, even for the English version which would go out to countries where a majority of the populations would be Black or Asian.

The same ”problem” occurred when focusing on South America and the Spanish translation of the survey.

Not a happy face.

We needed some advice on this.

So we asked Christopher Dawes and Daniel Rubenson, Associate Professors in the Politics departments at New York and Ryerson University respectively, who provided methodological advice on the study.

Daniel Rubenson:

”A solution would be to ask about `ethnic minority´ background instead. It covers everything and probably taps people’s attitudes in a way you want.”

That would leave us with this version: ”Would you feel comfortable with a player from an ethnic minority background representing your nation or club team?”

Daniel Rubenson:

”Yes, but you could also be more specific and ask: “Would you feel comfortable with a player of a different ethnic background from you representing your nation or club team?”
”That way you are really getting at attitudes toward `others´. Let’s say I am a Turkish Swede. I love Jimmy Durmaz (who has Turkish heritage) but I’m not so keen on Martin Olsson (who has Kenyan heritage). If you ask only about ethnic minority you might get a favourable response from me even though I actually am a racist…”

Chris Dawes:

”Would it make sense to say `ethnic / racial minority´?”

Daniel Rubenson:

”Yeah, I think that’s right. I would still phrase it as `…ethnic/racial background different from you…´”

Chris Dawes:

”I guess it is a matter of whether Forza/Kick It Out want to get majority feelings about minorities vs feelings about the out group in terms of race / ethnicity.”

Daniel Rubenson:


Alrighty then!

So we chose to run with THIS version:

Would you feel comfortable with a player of a different ethnic / racial background to you representing your nation or club team?”

All good?


Because when we had sent this version to the online translation service (for Danish, Dutch, German, Italian and Norwegian) we immediately had a comment from one of the translators:

”Hi, Please note that the use of the terms "race" and "racial" with regards to people is considered inappropriate in German. Kind regards,”

Of course! How did we not think about that?!

In Swedish we had already removed the word for race as it felt inappropriate.


We asked the same translator:

”What if we remove the word "race" and/or "racial" from the questions (and keep ethnic background), will it work in German then?”


”Yes, that's what I did in this translation. And it works fine since "ethnisch" (ethnic) would be understood as racial. It's just that the word "race" or rather the classification of people into races has strong Nazi connotations in German. The translations as presented are still very close to the original and you will be able to compare the results to those from the English questionnaire. Kind regards,

Oh my…

But after we had double-checked all the translations – to make sure we would not send the survey with an inappropriate language to any user – we were good to go.


Would you feel comfortable with a player of a different ethnic background to you representing your nation or club team?”

And here is the result for that question:

Happy face and thumbs!