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Will racism ever stop in football?

Friday 29th March 2019
Sterling Hudson Odoi Aubameyang Danny Rose Phillip Billing Stop Racism Ios Aje Omolayo

Of late, racism seems to be gaining momentum in football. England players were racially abused during their Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro. It isn't the first time for many. Raheem Sterling is just the most recent.

Despite well-publicised efforts from FIFA, UEFA and the FA to remove this stain from the game, a significant portion of the paying public seems to take such campaigns as a challenge. The issue of racism predates football and there seems to be no end. Campaigns promoting peace and harmony fall on deaf ears. People with racist agendas think tolerance means they should be allowed to broadcast their hatred freely in any media.

Tribalism in football doesn't help. Supporting your club is one thing. Heaping abuse on rivals is another. Hatred is hatred, whether it's for the colour of your skin or shirt.

When foreign ownership inundated the Premier League, the press took it as a sign diversity was spreading and racial tolerance becoming the norm. One need only look to social media to see how wrong the assumption was. When foreign players or owners didn't live up to expectations, the rhetoric ratcheted up to obscene levels.

When Kevin Prince-Boateng walked off the pitch during a match with AC Milan, fans shook their heads wondering when Italian football would catch up with the rest of the game. Since then, Raheem Sterling was racially abused by fans in the game between Manchester City and Chelsea at Stanford Bridge in December. Condemnation followed but no one was identified. Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang found a banana thrown at his feet during a North London Derby. The man who threw it was arrested.

In March, three incidents made news. Huddersfield Town midfielder Philip Billing was barracked on social media by fans. It's not difficult to use false names and create new email addresses to get around Twitter's limited enforcement. Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi heard it from Dinamo Kyiv fans in Ukraine. For England left-back Danny Rose, it was likewise in Montenegro. Both nations faced fines for failing to control their fans, but how do you stop racism from getting on the ground. Most clubs and associations can't stop fans smuggling flares and other objects into the ground. If tangible objects evade security, how can they be expected to detect unpleasant thoughts?

Fines in the tens or hundreds of thousands don't seem to work. Teams forced to play behind closed doors, thereby losing valuable gate receipts, may curb the vitriol temporarily but it soon returns. Unruly fans don't care about the money they cost ownership. Other measures are required. UEFA is prepared to ban clubs from European competition for violating Financial Fair Play multiple times. It is willing to issue transfer bans for illegal youth recruitment. Leagues dock points and drop clubs into lower leagues when they enter administration. When their club can't compete for trophies, when they can't brag about their squad online without being ridiculed for their actions, maybe they'll think twice.

Racism is the harsh treatment of players, coaches and visiting fans. It's time it was dealt with harshly as well.

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Aje Omolayo

I like to think of myself as an easy going lover of all things football, however, I do class myself as a die-hard Arsenal fan but I'm not biased enough to view life at the Emirates through rose-tinted spectacles and can appreciate when we are beaten by the better team on the day.


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