20 Feb 2015

Be extreme with sanctions – or accept football racism

Sports reporter

I’m bored with the discussion about how to combat racism in football. The only thing that shocked me about the incident filmed in the Paris Metro this week was the fact that people were shocked.


The scenes we saw, filmed by a fellow passenger on the platform, are truly disgusting. But can anyone say they were really shocked? And if you were, then there’s a level of naivety in society that is worrying.

The most interesting line in the interview given by Souleymane S (the black man involved) was: “You know, I live with racism, I was not really surprised by what happened to me, even if it was a first in the subway.” Most black people live with some form of racism day to day, week to week.

Does that mean we should just throw our hands in the air and concede defeat? Definitely not. But last time I checked, racist acts were a criminal offence. And what happened was an act of racist abuse.

So the fight is then passed to the relevant bodies to impose the necessary sanctions. If they don’t, how can the situation improve?

Small minority?

I’m fed up with hearing “It was a small minority of the fans” and “There’s lots of good work being done behind the scenes.” That may be true, but neither claim appears to be a solution to the problem.

The statement Chelsea FC released said all the right things and appeared to be taking the incident seriously. But I reckon if you go back through the last 10 years of racist incidents in football, it would read not dissimilarly to statements from other clubs. Does anyone really think Chelsea or any other club won’t be saying the same thing in six to 12 months’ time?

So, if we’re really serious about stamping out all forms of prejudice from the game, the punishments need to be as strong as the chants sung in Paris.

It would be unfair to implement the following punishment on Chelsea FC for two reasons: (a) you can’t punish a team before they know what the sanctions for an offence are, and (b) Chelsea FC can’t be held responsible for what happens outside the football arena.

But this is what needs to be done: Fifa, Uefa and all the national governing bodies need to agree if supporters are involved in behaviour of a racist nature, it will result in the club – yes, the club – being fined £1m and forfeiting their next European game 4-0 (the same to be applied to domestic games if it occurs during domestic matches).

No alternative?

The response to this will be: “Why are you punishing the clubs and thousands of fans for a handful of idiots?” This is a reasonable response – to which I would ask: “What’s the alternative?”

The alternative is that we talk more about all the good work being done. Blah blah blah. And then we’re back here in a year’s time and I’m writing the same article.

What’s fining going to do? Well, the pathetic fines issued aren’t going to do much. But I guarantee that if teams know they’re going be fined £1m for the actions of their fans, you can be sure clubs will be installing more cameras, more stewards, more security, and screening season ticket holders more thoroughly.

All the words of positive intent coming out of football are great. But it seems all very familiar.