Basically Fifa fear that wearing poppies will offend other countries, perhaps they have our German friends in mind? Of course, wearing poppies is not offensive in the slightest. It is merely a tribute to the soldiers that fought and died for our country. The fact that the England team won’t be wearing them is just another reminder of the ludicrous behaviour that Fifa seems intent on displaying on a regular basis.
What about though, offending our own citizens? Regardless of whether England shirts have a small red flower on them, will our players be lead out by a racist? Will a country as diverse as ours be represented by someone who is abusive to his own countrymen because of their race? John Terry is expected to be wearing the captain’s armband on Saturday and/or Tuesday. Whether he is guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand however is pending investigation.
Let me just state that I think it was the right decision for John Terry to be included in the England squad for the imminent matches. In football as well as in the country as a whole we have the right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. To punish Terry before a thorough and accurate investigation would have been unfair and would have shown the FA buckling under pressure from the media. Even QPR chairman Tony Fernandes has agreed with this, see http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/15593135.stm.
I am not going to spend hours picking apart whether Terry should have made the England squad. I want to look at if we have a racism problem in football in general and what kind of consequences any guilty parties should face.
Is racism more prevalent in football now than it was 15 years ago? 25 years ago? Well no. Not as far as I can see anyway. The days of John Barnes having to use his dribbling skills to evade banana skins as well as defenders have thankfully now gone.
Campaigns such as ‘Say No to Racism’ and ‘Stand Up, Speak Up’ have helped to isolate and somewhat diminish the problem. It still exists though, in this country and throughout Europe. We have seen over the years as some of our players have been abused when playing in Europe by fans, as recently as England’s game in Bulgaria in September.
Fortunately it would appear that racist incidents amongst fans in the UK are fairly rare. What has not been so rare though, particularly this season, is incidents amongst players. The John Terry incident, Luis Suarez clashing with Patrice Evra. It is allegedly happening at all of levels of the game, see Blyth Spartans’ Richard Offiong accusing a Colwyn Bay player of a racist slur (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/15612648.stm).
Wigan chairman Dave Whelan came out after the Terry and Suarez incidents claiming that players who had recently complained of racist abuse “should get on with it”. Whelan claimed that abuse of this sort can work both ways in the stressful environment of top-level football, with white players facing racist comments as well. Whelan almost went as far to say that when players complain of racist abuse they are “a little out of order”. Dave is clearly not one for mincing his words.
So on this theory John Terry and others should go completely unpunished if accused of making racist taunts. And players shouldn’t mention it if they are targeted by fellow professionals or even a team of professionals because they are black. Or any colour for that matter. I don’t think so Dave. Probably best to focus on getting your team out of their eight match losing streak.
One of the big problems surrounding racist abuse amongst players is that it can be very hard to prove. Any comments made can often be in close proximity between players. Unless an official is close to what is being said or is directly caught on camera then accusations are largely hearsay.
The difference with the John Terry situation is that he was caught on camera. The racist abuse that he was alleged of was captured by Sky’s cameras and as anyone who has seen it will agree – it doesn’t look good for JT. That wasn’t meant to rhyme.
If it is proved without doubt that Terry did say what it certainly looks like he did then punishment will surely follow. What level of punishment are we talking here though? A slap on the wrist or more?
After the incident against QPR, Chelsea travelled to Genk in the Champions League. There, their fans were heard to be chanting “Anton Ferdinand, you know what you are”. Whether this was in support of their captain, an attack on Ferdinand or anything in between is not the point. They were criticised and chastised for it. QPR manager Neil Warnock stated afterwards that he felt the perpetrators should be jailed for two years.
Imprisoned for two years? Not like Neil Warnock to exaggerate things. Having said that quite a lot of people will agree with good old Neil. So then why not imprison John Terry for two years? It is the same principle. If anything, in his position of power he should get more time. The fans would not have chanted such things if he hadn’t started the whole thing. If he did indeed start it.
OK, well Terry shouldn’t be locked up for two years. Or even banned from football for two years. His punishment though should be proportionate to the kind of consequences fans face for such actions. Match-going fans can face extortionate bans if caught for racist abuse at a ground. Some fans have even been banned for life from attending the ground of the teams that they support. So why should John Terry only get a fraction of the kind of retribution that a fan would face for doing the same thing? If anything as Terry abused Anton Ferdinand more directly his actions were worse than his fans. Again, IF he did actually do it.
By introducing much greater bans and punishments the FA would go substantially further to eliminating the problem of racism in football. Longer bans would also create significantly more equality on the matter. Why on earth should supporters be treated much worse than professionals when they are carrying out the same offences.
The fact is even if the consequences for being racist in football are increased, the problem will still remain. At least for now anyway. Much like in society as a whole there will always be people who are prejudiced. The FA cannot change the views of every footballer that plays in this country. However if they come down hard on players who are racist on the pitch then this would help to discourage people expressing their views in the public domain.
The FA would certainly be largely unsympathetic on fans and they must do the same with John Terry. IF (for the last time) he is actually guilty of the racist actions he is accused of.