THE KNEE TEST
For someone who can recall being racially abused competing in two sports, and who admits 30 years on he is still grappling to change the composition of staff in his own organisation, 2020 has been an interesting, if sobering, year.
The summer was marked with outrage and demonstrations in the USA over the deaths and shootings of black people by the police that soon found a platform across major sports.
Those protests spread to the UK and it was not long before footballers, rugby players and others were taking the knee to show their support before matches.
But the extent to which what began as a truly shocking preliminary to kick-off, has rapidly become mundane is something many black voices in sport are already questioning.
Fatigue with the lack of meaningful change during the years of Kick It Out and Show Racism the Red Card recently led to the creation of a new group – Football’s Black Coalition – made up of players, coaches and pundits.
One of their prime motivations was to dramatically alter an industry where although 40 per cent of the playing staff are from non-white backgrounds, the level of managers, coaches, physios, administrators and executives is less than five per cent.
It’s an imbalance that is broadly reflected in many other sports.
Former England international Les Ferdinand, now director of football at QPR, said kneeling as a gesture had run its course, lost the power to spark any change, and had been “diluted” through repetition.
Walker has sympathy with that view and says: “The taking the knee in itself won't do anything. It has to be a catalyst for further change and further action.
“Of itself, it will make no difference whatsoever. The agenda has to be, ‘this is what we're going to do over the next three weeks, three months, 12 months, to make meaningful changes within sport’.
“There is a door that is ajar in most clubs, organisations and sports at the moment. We must push against that door and make sure it doesn’t shut again.
“Just like the government can't keep saying, ‘we're doing this, we're going to do that’ we've actually got to do something. How many reviews can you have?
“The answer is only so many before people lose interest, so there needs to be tangible change now.
“I'm an optimist but I do believe that society needs to be more equal in the first place. And people need to be encouraged, and people need to be mentored.