Anyone who has been to a live football match will no doubt have heard another individual – 0r a group of individuals – chanting abuse, racist or not, towards a player or opposing fans.
If you haven’t, then you are one of the lucky ones because we all know it has become a regular occurrence within the game and something that has been highlighted recently in the Premier League.
The news that a small minority of West Ham fans were singing songs about Hitler and making reference to the appalling violent experience Tottenham fans had in Rome last week in their London derby on Sunday have been met with disgust throughout the world of English football, and rightly so.
But we all know that it is not the first time such abuse has taken place and I think we can all agree that it won’t be the last. But why?
In an age where we are regularly preached to about respect, equality and how lucky we are to lead such lives when others were not so fortunate in the past, there still seems to be some morons who think it is right and funny to continue making light of what is a serious issue which is still yet to be properly addressed in football and, more importantly, in life.
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We all know about the huge racism issue in the Premier League recently and the soft punishment the FA handed John Terry after he racially abused QPR defender Anton Ferdinand. A four-match ban was simply not enough, especially when you consider Luis Suarez’s eight-match ban for his racially abusive comments towards Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.
The FA’s lack of consistency of dealing with such issues has not done them any favours in attempting to make an example of those guilty and show the world of football, both fans and players, that they will not tolerate any kind of behaviour that discriminates others.
One question that may be raised is whether the FA’s leniency on the punishment of John Terry has led to some simple minded fans believing that if it’s alright for the footballers to be getting away lightly with it, they can too. I wouldn’t put it past the fans who have already been punished for racist behaviour in the stands to have had that mind set when acting irresponsibly. Besides, they could argue that it’s a case of one rule for those on the pitch and one for those off it.
But we all know that it isn’t just at football grounds that this kind of abuse occurs. Twitter is regularly used as another platform for people to vent their anger and ignorant views towards high profile names within the sport, even before the Suarez and Terry cases.
The FA are powerless to stop what happens on the social networking site, which leaves the police with the unenviable task of punishing the keyboard warriors who think it is right to racially abuse or send death threats to the likes of TalkSport pundit Stan Collymore or West Ham’s Carlton Cole.
We have seen several Twitter users fined and even jailed for discriminatory tweets, and the police should be praised for taking a stand against these perpetrators. But it still happens and, sadly, it always will because the world will always have people who are either ill-educated and/or ignorant.
West Ham’s decision to ban a season ticket holder for life following the events at White Hart Lane on Sunday has been met with praise because, not only have they eliminated one ignorant football fan from attending any more of their games, they have also given out a strong message that the club will not tolerate its supporters behaving in such a disgusting way. However, many people have questioned why John Terry and Luis Suarez were not also handed life bans from the sport – which is the crux of the problem.
But what the FA need to do now is ban that particular fan from every football ground in the country, thus giving him no chance of ever polluting a single stadium again – something the sport desperately needs. It is a hard punishment to put in place, but one that they must try their hardest to implement. Face recognition cameras at every Premier League ground would be an effective deterrent, stopping banned supporters buying tickets under false names, which we all know happens already.
With football playing such an important role in the lives of thousands of people across the country, there will be many that refrain from acting irresponsibly in the fear of being caught and banned from football for life not just by their own club, but by the FA. Just the thought of that ever happening to me is difficult to take, but so is being racially abusive and anti-Semitic.
The fact of the matter is that the FA, the police and football clubs must continue to work together and impose the hardest, most severe, punishments possible to rid the beautiful game of such abuse so that the majority can enjoy the sport for what it is, rather than have to regularly discuss how we are witnessing it being dragged through the gutter time and time again.
If every club in England acted as quickly and as strongly as West Ham have done then we would be heading in the right direction, but it is also up to the FA to follow suit and get themselves involved before it’s too late.
We will never rid the world of morons, but we can do our best to rid the sport of them.
What do you think? Is the FA failing to make a good enough example of the perpetrators, or should the police and clubs be the ones who do the punishing? Have they sent out the wrong message with lenient punishments for players?