Editorial: Kick It Out

Robbie Gill

Recent events have made the FA’s ‘Kick Racism Out of Football’ campaign appear as slow paced and toothless as a proverbial sloth. One has been led to believe that times had changed since Viv Anderson became the first black player to play for England in 1978. However John Terry’s alleged slur, aimed at Anton Ferdinand, coupled with last months incident involving Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra have highlighted that there remains a dark undercurrent of archaic attitudes which have no place in the Twenty-First Century.

Racism and hooliganism were both at there worse in the 1980’s, with Chelsea player Paul Canoville enduring derision from his own fans. The developments in reducing violence at football have been enormous; however the progress in reducing the mindless abuse of players from both their fellow professionals and fans has sadly lagged behind. Since the inception of the ‘Kick it Out’ campaign in 1993 steps have undoubtedly been made for the better. However it is shocking to see that the same monkey chants aimed at West Brom legend Cyrille Regis in the 1980’s, had also to be endured by Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ashley Cole in a friendly against Spain almost ten years after the campaign was introduced in 2004. 2004 was also the year in which Ron Atkinson lost his job and respect for a despicable slur on Marcel Desially.

Between then and now there have been various other flare-ups of racism including the anti-semitic abuse of Avram Grant, and the islamaphobic chants of Newcastle fans aimed at former Middleborough striker Mido. In addition to this, Jason Euell was subjected to horrific abuse from fans whilst sat on the bench playing for Blackpool against Stoke in 2009. This prompted Blackpool manager Ian Holloway to state, “We are human beings and Jason is a footballer. The colour of his skin shouldn’t matter. It was disgusting.” With these incidents all following after the launch of the ‘Kick it Out’ campaign, it poses the question of how these incidents remain, largely, unpunished.

That brings us to last month’s game between old rivals Manchester United and Liverpool which should have been a celebration of the biggest game in English club football. It was, however, marred by an incident involving Luis Saurez and Patrice Evra, with Evra accusing Suarez of racially abusing him on no less than ten occasions. No word from this incident has come from the FA, aside from their declaration that the incident will be investigated. This either suggests that they are taking their time to reach the correct decision, or they are not taking their own campaign seriously. One must hope that it is the former.

The timing of this latest incident between Terry and Anton Ferdinand could hardly have been worse. For those who are unaware of the incident in question, it took place early this month in a game between QPR and Chelsea. During the match, a coming together between the two players led to a verbal exchange and Terry is alleged to have racially attacked Ferdinand. Whilst none of the allegations against Terry have yet been proven, anyone who has seen the footage of the incident in question must surely be in little doubt as to his guilt.

The behavior of Terry has been abhorrent throughout his career. Being stripped and reinstated as England captain for an affair with a teammate’s ex-girlfriend, and now this latest controversy are by no means the only scandals that have perforated his career. As captain of both Chelsea and England, it is surely not too much to ask for him to set an example to the youth of the nation. Whilst his importance to club and country as a player is not in question, this kind of mindless discrimination is something which should no longer be prevalent in today’s society.

The FA may wish to give the impression to the fans that they are indeed taking this issue seriously, but the lack of information emanating from English footballs governing body suggests otherwise. This coupled with a distinct lack of punishment for any offenders past or present shows a worrying trend of non-action. It may well be argued that in the past it was hard to single out the perpetrators but in a society where the only place the average Britain is not being filmed is in his own home it is sheer folly to claim that the offenders cannot be caught. Cameras in stadiums are now so advanced that they can single out an individual fan in their seat within seconds, and the players themselves are filmed from every conceivable angle.

It may well materialise that the FA comes down hard on Terry for his latest misdemeanor, however judging by their record it seems unlikely. Any punishment they hand out is likely to be either a proportionally minimal fine or none at all. If they fail to punish Terry when the evidence appears so conclusive it will set a dangerous precedent for the future. It sends a message that ‘Kick it Out’ is little more than a gesture, a publicity stunt to keep people off their backs. None of this is to say that there have not been signs of improvement in some areas, but with incidents like this still occurring how can anyone claim that this progress has been sufficient. There can be no dispute that the means are there to punish the offenders and this need to be utilised. This is something the FA should be prioritising as highly as the development of elite players. In a state that is so multicultural, how can we expect players of any ethnicity to wish to represent a nation that has a captain who behaves in such a despicable manner? The time is now for the FA and ‘Kick it Out’ to find its bite and snap this disgraceful practice out of the beautiful game.

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