Caricom is an independent bi-annual publication that aims to carve a space in football culture writing where BAME people can gain a sense of agency. Edited by freelance writer Calum Jacobs and designed by graphic designer Shawn Sawyers, Caricom is an attempt to use football’s ability to encourage a sense of community amongst fans of differing faiths, ethnicities and backgrounds to mediate on topics absent from mainstream football writing. Caricom’s first issue discusses misrepresentation, otherness, cultural co-option and the conflict of heritage. We caught up with Calum Jacobs and Shawn Sawyers to find out more about the platform they are trying to create.

Can you tell us about your magazine, Caricom why you started it?
CJ – I’d written about race in relation to football quite casually for a few years, I found it quite therapeutic, but could never really imagine how I’d pitch content like it to the football magazines I read, we’re talking 4-5 years ago now before ‘wokeness’ had captured the zeitgeist. Self-publishing felt like the best option. Shawn helped me understand it could take the form of a magazine and it went from there, really. I suppose we made it because nothing like this exists and I feel, because of our combined interests, cultural understanding and love of football, we’re best placed to produce it.

“Caricom uses football as a vehicle to expand on subjects that people are incapable or unwilling to broach or articulate.”

Caricom uses football as a vehicle to expand on subjects that people are incapable or unwilling to broach or articulate. It definitely can act as an educational tool for readers, although that was never really the intention. I see it as a unifying force, but football is very tribalistic, so the jury is out on whether that’s a realistic aspiration. There are still Liverpool fans out there that will defend Luis Suarez’s racism because he was a Liverpool player, for example. Essentially, I think I wanted all my black mates to say: “finally, someone who’s documenting everything we’ve felt and said for years.” Part of the black experience is to be told by white society that your concerns and complaints aren’t valid, or worse still, that they’re delusional. I wanted to alleviate that, and at the same time make myself feel better.

Caricom explores the space where football and black experience intersect – can you tell us a bit about what you aim to achieve?
CJ – The largest aim is to achieve cultural significance via critically resisting bigotry wherever we see it in the world of football. Beyond that, we want to reframe the way black footballers are appraised and appreciated in the face of an industry (football writing) that casually and overtly seeks to diminish them. Really, that’s a way for us to celebrate blackness in general, which isn’t a mainstream practice in Great Britain at any level anywhere. Another aim is to abet reconciliation between Britain’s dark past and the shared futures of BAME people currently living here, albeit in a very small way.

What is your opinion the lack of BAME representation within the media and specifically football reporting?
CJ – We actually touch on this in the magazine – we conducted an interview with Thomas Theodore (former editor of Forever Sport) and he said some very insightful things. The wider issue is that debates can’t progress without senior BAME talent driving issues forward and making sure writing related to a lack of black managers, for example, appear far more regularly. On top of that, it also means interviews with black footballers and coaches will always lack the insight a black writer could extricate, as the player will likely remain guarded when confronted by an older white man who definitely won’t have any understanding of said players background and culture, never mind be able to coax some personality from behind the media trained veneer footballers tend to employ.

Can you tell us a bit about the design element of Caricom and how this differs from other football-related media?
SS – Where we differ, perhaps, is that we want to marry it with a visual intelligence that people wouldn’t normally associate with a publication of this nature. We’re not stereotypically “urban”, we have made a conscious choice to deviate from that. The development of the visual language is an organic process; it embodies the element of play that is so characteristically inherent within the sport of football. This is grounded in the simplicity and rigidity of the rest of the design elements that make up the visual language. Our aim is to efficiently communicate through conscious design that is purposeful, critical and direct.

Sports coverage is often fast-news and gossip-focused – how can using long-form journalism or ‘slow journalism’ provide an alternative perspective on football?
CJ – Although there is an element of football coverage that is gossip focused, it’s also well served by dedicated, quality long-form writing. Publications like The Blizzard, Eight by Eight and Mundial lead the way in it. They’re not at all reactive, preferring instead to examine the cultures surrounding football or to provide further context to an event by training a retrospective lens on an individual from history. The Guardian’s football desk are also excellent at this. Anyone looking to learn more about Manchester City’s plans for expansion, or why Roy Keane was the Tony Soprano of old Trafford won’t be disappointed by their long read output. Obviously, they cater to a very specific reader, the vast majority of fans still just want to learn who their club will look to purchase in the next transfer window. Personally, I’d like to see coverage become more balanced, and long-form be spoken about and referenced in mainstream outlets to counter the lazy and cliché ridden conversation that dominates radio stations and punditry.

How do you aim to tackle the lack of representation of BAME writers, specifically within football reportage?
CJ – If you look at the sociocultural and (more than likely) systemic reasons why there are so few BAME football writers and journalists, I don’t know that we can. I also don’t see why it should be up to us to do it, surely that change should be driven from within the industry? I’m actually beginning to feel that we shouldn’t. Rather than having our voices co-opted by publications or brands who’ll look to use us as a go-to on blackness or a liberalist think tank, we’ll try to become a platform for BAME writers who feel discouraged from pitching to websites or magazines because they don’t see themselves represented in them. If we can afford these writers a level of legitimacy, confidence and nous, that will be enough for us at this stage.

Can you tell us a bit about the writers and photographers you’ve collaborated with on the first issue?
CJ – We worked with Chris Baker, who has produced maybe the best photo book on Sunday football ever. The artwork is provided by Joy Miessi (Nike, DAZED, It’s Nice That) Chester Holme (Season Annual, Twitter, Pickles Magazine) and Stuart Ruel (The Boston Globe, Folio Society) and many more.

Why did you choose to publish Caricom in print and not digital? Do you plan to publish content online?
CJ – Discussing anything pertaining to race online either angers most white people or causes them to feel very, very uncomfortable. Either they accuse you of separatism, saying you’re too sensitive, politically correct and or humourless or start talking about something called “reverse racism”. (Which we all know isn’t real, unless we believe racism is just name-calling and not discrimination backed by institutional structures and legislation.) You then become a pariah. For a contemporary, football-related example of this, you need to look no further than what happened to Eniola Aluko when she spoke out against the England manager, Mark Sampson. For speaking the truth she was ostracised and abused. I don’t know that we’ll ever publish online. If you want to decry the things inside the magazine you have to pay us first.

What can we expect from Caricom’s next issue?
More uncompromising writing that never deviates entirely from the world of football, plus a lot more photography and even more beautiful illustrations.

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