May 20 2013 Latest news:
Robin Sainty, INCSC chairman
Saturday, January 14, 2012
I generally try to be as light hearted as possible in this column, but after Friday night’s events at Anfield I’m afraid I’m finding that rather hard this week.
To see a decent, intelligent young man like Tom Adeyemi almost reduced to tears by allegedly racist comments from the Kop was shocking enough. However, with the young man visibly upset, the general singing of a song of support for Luis Suarez, who is currently serving an eight game ban for racially abusing another player, displayed an unbelievable level of crassness.
I wouldn’t suggest for a minute that the fans of Liverpool football club are inherently racist, but I do believe that the club’s poor handling of the Suarez issue was a contributory factor on Friday night. By continuing to protest their player’s innocence after he was found guilty Liverpool created a dangerous atmosphere. Supporters were encouraged to believe that, despite 155 detailed pages of legal argument, including a lot of independent expert testimony, the case against Suarez was circumstantial and the FA were treating the club and player unfairly. This was be exacerbated by Suarez’s continued refusal to apologise to Evra.
Liverpool’s reaction, particularly the failure to exercise their right to appeal while continuing to imply that their player was the victim, inevitably led to the erroneous but commonly held belief on Merseyside, that Suarez had been convicted simply because the FA had taken Evra’s word over his. Unfortunately to some of the more intellectually challenged minority that seems to have been taken as a declaration of open season to abuse anyone with a skin colour vaguely similar to Evra’s.
I grew up during the 1970s when the few black players in British football could invariably look forward to monkey noises and bananas being thrown onto the pitch. That was on a good day, and it could get considerably more ugly. Thankfully we have moved on from that sort of thing and for a while it seemed that racism in football was becoming a thing of the past in this country. Sadly recent events have suggested that, perhaps partly as a result of our current economic woes, it is making a comeback.
It is well known that political parties such as the BNP and the EDL see some football grounds as a fertile recruiting ground, but hatred and prejudice can only thrive where they aren’t challenged. I know that many fans were appalled by the John Terry chants at Loftus Road and this is the key to combating racism in the stands. In that case the handful of fans who started the chant were left in no doubt about how disgusted those around them felt and peer group pressure is a very effective weapon in this battle.
Football clubs are doing a huge amount to combat racism but ultimately this is an area where we as fans can play a major part. At the weekend INCSC issued a press release calling on our members, and indeed all City fans, to report any instances of racist abuse because the only way this stain on our game can spread is if we allow it to by turning a blind eye. With John Terry in court on February 1 this is not an issue that will fade from the headlines anytime soon and hopefully that high profile will prove positive in increasing awareness of, and revulsion for, racism in football.
Inevitably some may think this is an overreaction. All I would suggest to them is that they take a long hard look at the anger and pain on Tom’s face on Friday night.