Racism has suddenly reared its ugly head again in our society, particularly publicly so in and around football grounds. I’m not quite sure why that might be, but I’ve long suspected that the anti-immigrant thread that runs through Brexit has given a faux legitimacy to a thoroughly nasty strain of human behaviour. Saying that it’s all right to oppose immigration has given carte blanche to those who have always had a fear and hatred of anyone in any way different. And let’s be honest about this for a moment: Brexiteers were happy to harness that racism to garner support for their cause in the referendum. They still are. Brexit means Brexit means Get-Out-Nasty-Fill-in-the-blanks.
I’m not sure about the logic of ‘holding clubs accountable for the actions of their spectators’. Clubs are aware of their responsibilities, but can do little more than assist the police in catching the perpetrators and then (attempt to) ban these low-lifes from ever setting foot inside their ground again. On the other hand there’s little anyone can do to prevent someone donning a Falkirk scarf, say, attending an away game and misbehaving, then wearing Dunfermline colours to one of their away games the next week. Home fans are easier to police than away supporters.
In any case, I understand that in most cases other surrounding fans – presumably supporting the same team, too – are quick to assist the police. That doesn’t sound like a collective will to look the other way. In the meantime, the only way to guarantee that players can be sheltered from fans’ racist abuse in the future is to play every game behind closed doors. Raheem Sterling would need to take a large salary cut to accommodate that.
When anything goes wrong, judge the organisation not by the fact that a mishap happened, judge it by its response. As far as I can make out, no football club is doing nothing, or pretending that there’s nothing to do. Occasionally there’s a debate about whether or not specific abuse or a specific assault is racially-motivated or whether it’s simply criminal behaviour, but the effects on the victim are essentially the same.
Either way, society can’t simply hold its nose and pretend that these problems happen only inside football grounds. In fact, the villains are probably more likely to be caught inside a football ground, surrounded by witnesses and under the watchful eye of the police, security staff, and CCTV. I’d imagine that BAME footballers are a whole lot safer on a professional football field than they would be on a Friday night in any UK city centre.
So it’s a society problem, and while football clubs have to chip in to make an effort, too, I’d bet that almost every one of those racist-chanting morons voted for Brexit, always assuming that they know which end of a voting paper is the top. Meantime, a message for Brexiteers: sow the wind, reap the whirlwind. Take some responsibility for the evil you’ve quietly condoned.
As for those who preach the mantra that ‘the public will never forgive us if we betray what they voted for in the EU Referendum’, shame on you all. Once upon a time government leaders were statesmen who did what was right for the country, they didn’t scrabble around grasping a few dirty votes from uneducated bigots. It’s a wonder that you can look at yourselves in the mirror each morning. No wonder today’s politicians command so little respect.