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Racism in Football: Enough is Enough

790   //    02 Nov 2012, 11:56 IST

Just when football thought racism had gone away, it’s come back with a vengeance. Two incidents on the pitch from high profile Premier League players who should know better in Luis Suarez and John Terry are arguably the most disappointing points of the whole saga, but isolated incidents in the crowd at home and more widespread and disgusting scenes abroad have really brought the issue back into focus.

No one has said Suarez and Terry are racists, even in their respective judgements. However, the words they used certainly were. They will argue the context in what they said but they are grown men who have been playing in Europe for long enough to know that those words, regardless of context, can’t be said.

There are isolated incidents coming from the crowd. Last year an Oldham player received abuse from a supporter in an FA Cup tie against Liverpool. This was one of a few but fortunately it seems to be the odd moron in the crowd rather than a section of the crowd as a collective. At least in the UK. Last week we saw ugly scenes in Serbia where Danny Rose was subject to horrendous physical and verbal abuse from a nation with a short history but one riddled with racism. And earlier this season, Lazio were fined just over £30k after Tottenham players received racist abuse from their fans in a Europa League game.

Incidentally, England were fined the same for failing to control their players and staff in the under-21’s clash with Serbia as their opponents were for their fans’ appalling behaviour.

Last season Man City were fined double what Porto were for two incidents in their European clash. City’s crime? Coming out late for the second half. Porto’s crime? Racism from the fans.

The punishments don’t fit the crime. When it comes to the crowd, any fine other than one that would financially ruin the club won’t have an effect. It doesn’t harm the fans in any way. The punishment needs to be harsher. A stadium ban for the fans for a set number of games, a points deduction or suspension from tournaments are more extreme but equally justified solutions.

Of course in some of these Eastern European countries where racism seems to be more ingrained into the people and the culture, education is key and needs to be run alongside these proposed punishments. FIFA vice president Jim Boyce has suggested stronger and non-financial punishments for racism, so maybe we will start to see change.

These recent incidents, especially the ones that have happened in England, have clearly upset some of the black players with many, including Rio and Anton Ferdinand, refusing to wear the Kick it Out T-Shirt and Jason Roberts being very vocal in his refusal to support the campaign. Whilst I agree with what Roberts have said, and what the other players have said through their actions and statements, I think they’re going about things in the wrong way.

The Kick it Out Campaign has no authority, no bearing on decisions and punishments, nor is it run by the FA or any other governing body. It is a charity whose goals are education on the subject of racism and suggesting policies on how to combat it.

It is underfunded with a budget of under half a million (of which about two thirds comes from the FA and the Premier League) and partly because of this, and partly for other as yet unclear reasons, it is failing to achieve its aims. But with a structure already in place, a clear set of goals and being a campaign that is recognized nationally, would it not be better for these players to get on board themselves both in terms of finance and in terms of bettering the charity and helping them reach their goal of eradicating racism in football for good?

And they should be ‘attacking’ and criticising the FA, UEFA, FIFA et al. Many have stated they would refuse to play or walk off should they or a team mate receive this kind of abuse, and maybe if they followed through with these threats for one reason or another (I’d hope through the issue of racism but a cynical part of me thinks FIFA et al would only take notice because it would be embarrassing and may lead to sponsors withdrawing) then the powers that be would have to take notice.

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