Social media can be a cesspit of sewer rats.. this is worst year on record for racism in football


THIS has been a season we will never forget.

In terms of football and racism, everybody has seen the discrimination and abuse, including England’s game in Bulgaria and increasingly online.

For society, the death of George Floyd made me depressed.

Then you add coronavirus and the financial implications across football and it becomes a worrying time.

But there are always things that give hope, like the way football has reacted to Covid-19, with so many clubs doing amazing work in their communities.

Marcus Rashford’s success with school meals is another and the way football — and players in particular — have responded to Black Lives Matter.

There is an appetite to turn the words into real, meaningful and long-term action, to do the things needed to create lasting change and opportunities. But we also have to tackle discrimination.

This will be the worst year on record. We have to stem the tide.

Online abuse is a massive issue and it can turn into real-world abuse.

There is no magic wand. Everybody needs to step up to the plate and raise their game.

And I mean everyone — football, social media companies, government and law enforcement.

We need the likes of Twitter and Facebook to do more, taking stuff down and also educating the public.

Social media is not all bad. Look at how Rashford used it to create change.

It also was why we knew about that awful incident in the Haringey versus Yeovil FA Cup tie so quickly.

But while it can be an absolute fountain of joy, it can also be a cesspit of sewer rats. The problem is there are no real consequences for social media behaviour.

People feel free to do whatever they want.

We do not know whether it’s a 12-year old kid in Birmingham who is trolling Ian Wright or Wilfried Zaha, or if it is organised, orchestrated online hate.

That doesn’t mean a blanket ban on anonymity but every account must have a verification link to a specific person.

Then it is down to working with law enforcement to make sure appropriate action is taken.

But the past two months have been a real positive.

We must go beyond gestures and push for change past the news cycle

People see that what Black Lives Matter stands for is greater equality and fairness. They want to make that happen.

The challenge now is to go beyond gestures. We have had them before.

Shiny, high-profile initiatives don’t necessarily solve the problems.

You have to stay involved when the news cycle has moved on. We need sustained action over four or five years to move the dial.

Slogans on shirts are not enough. Supporters must know what to do if they see or hear something in a stadium, or on social media.

It is about the academy player who has been racially abused or bullied having simple guidance about how to respond.

It is helping the Sunday League player feel confident that a report of abuse will be investigated properly.

We need concrete actions to change behaviour. Values alone will not.

There is no quick fix. Culture doesn’t change overnight because someone says it should. It happens gradually.

Football boardrooms are still white and male, there is still an absence of black coaches, while Asians in football are completely invisible.

But black players now feel more encouraged to speak out.

Tyrone Mings, Troy Deeney, Rashford and Raheem Sterling are influencers in their own right, potentially bigger than clubs or any politicians.

They can change opinions and have the courage to use their platforms responsibly.

Football is enabling them to do that, which wouldn’t have been the case a few years ago.

For my generation, the seminal game was West Brom thrashing Manchester United at Old Trafford in 1978.

Not just for Laurie Cunningham and Cyrille Regis laying that slur about black players and snow to rest but because Gerald Sinstadt, the commentator, called the racism out.

That was so unusual then. Now you would expect a commentator and the media to talk about it, not brush it under the carpet.

Having lived in football for 46 years, it feels like George Floyd’s death has changed people. I do think it’s different.

I’m more confident now.

Football was already moving in the right direction but the way the game has reacted has shown me that there is a real willingness to change.



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