The events of this week and a number of weeks before it have highlighted the issues of racism within in our game. It’s easy to say ‘oh but that’s just in Eastern Europe, we’re fine over here, move alone chaps’, but that isn’t the case. Aside from the troubles out in Serbia, Brentford’s Clayton Donaldson was subject to racial abuse via Twitter, there were accusations (albeit accusations with much doubt cast over them) that Oldham winger Lee Croft racially abused a ball boy, Millwall fans allegedly racially abused Bolton striker Marvin Sordell and the actions of Chelsea in the John Terry case. Although these incidents don’t necessarily mean racism is rife in English football, which it isn’t, they do show how we deal with racism is a problem.
Millwall have denied it, pointing those questioning whether or not they are a racist club to their work in their community and the fact their player of the year, Jimmy Abdou, is black. In a similar manner, Croft’s manager Paul Dickov said after the match against in Sheffield United, in which the accusations arose, the Croft can’t have been guilty because he’s a lovely chap and wouldn’t harm a fly, even calling it ‘ridiculous’. As it’s transpired, it would seem Dickov was correct, but should managers really be defending their players in such a manner when the accusations have just been made with little evidence either way?
Chelsea’s backing of John Terry is rather odd. After he accepted his punishment for using a racial term against Anton Ferdinand, the club have said they have internally sanctioned him but wont reveal what those sanctions are. No doubt he will continue as captain. When compared to Chelsea’s dealings with a fan, who was banned for three years for using a racist language, it does seem like the punishments for racism are not going far enough. Clubs are too willing to stand by their players, those who dish out the punishments from above often go soft and, if Sepp Blatter had his way, it would all just be solved by a handshake.
Blatter and his cronies at FIFA, along with Platini at UEFA, are the main culprits of soft punishment. Not only has Blatter suggested his handshake gesture, but UEFA have enforced fines of a lesser extent for racism than for Nicklas Bendtner wearing Paddy Power shorts. They care more about their sponsorship deals than clamping down on racism, well I’m sure they don’t, but that’s the message they’re putting across.
UEFA’s decision to charge both Serbia and England following the brawl at the end of their under 21 play-off fixture has set a dangerous precedent. They’ve already made it clear that players choosing to walk off the pitch when being the victims of racial abuse is not acceptable, and by charging England, it would seem racial abuse must be taking on the chin. I’m not saying England are totally innocent, the coaching staff getting involved probably hasn’t helped that, but they have reacted to a nightmare situation and UEFA have to understand that. In fact, the English players coped admirably. Danny Rose only wrong doing was to kick the ball away in anger and frustration, emotions he so easily could have taken out a Serbian player, fan or coaching staff member, whilst Jack Butland showed maturity well above his young years to calm his team mates down and get them down the tunnel. The pictures show almost ever punch, push or pinch was from someone associated to Serbia, how they can hope to justify actions that are not justifiable in any situation, let alone one in which their supporters were racially abusing England’s players, is beyond me.
The Serbian FA have also firmly nailed their colours to the mast. By refusing to believe any racism took place, despite monkey chants and the like being clearly heard, and blaming Danny Rose for, well I’m not too sure really, they’ve shown yet another example of this total lack of acceptance and a desire to stand up for themselves in a situation that is undefendable. This isn’t the fist time either. The Serbian FA have been warned on several occasions of the behaviour of their fans and were threatened to be kicked out of qualification for Euro 2012. The total ignorance towards the situation from the Serbs is unbelievable.
I’ll reiterate my first point, the game isn’t racist, especially not in England, but a minority of individuals are and in other parts of the world racism exists on mass. The problem isn’t the racism, the problem is the way The FAs, the clubs and those right at the top deal with racism. Stronger sanctions need to be introduced, such as banning Serbia, the removal of this idea of defending everyone and everything no matter how guilty they are, or when a lack of evidence exists, needs to happen and players who are the victims of such abuse need to feel like they have a way of dealing with it, which should be an entitlement to leave the pitch.
For those who spend a great deal of time supporting campaigns to stop racism in football, such as Jason Roberts, Jason Euell and Clark Carlisle, the current situation must be heartbreaking. Their work seems to have reached a dead end, emphasised my the fact that Roberts is planning to instruct players to boycott wearing the ‘Kick It Out’ campaign t-shirt this weekend over what he feels is a lack of action. It’s also upsetting for everyone who plays or is involved with the game, no matter who they are. You’re not going to change a way a country behaves, but those at the top need to change their ways and their ignorance towards racism in football.