Monday, 23 December 2019

Time for Football to Excommunicate the Racists

This weekend, I was delighted to enjoy Manchester City beat Leicester City in the Premiership. The goals were scored by Riad Mahrez, an Egyptian, Ilkay Gundogan, a German of Turkish heritage and Gabriel Jesus, a Brazilian. All are players I am delighted play for my club and all are absolutelely at the top of the game. City fans are lucky that the owners largesse allows the club to acquire such players. I remember the dark years, decades without a trophy. I recall the immense performances of Yaya Toure to being home the FA cup. A special moment, it was the first visit of myself and my then eight year old son to Wembley. Yaya was a legend. I could go on. What do all of these players have in common apart from being brilliant footballers? Sadly, they are all people who racists have a problem with. Personally I don't get racism. As a musician, a music lover and a football lover, I see the amazing contribution of people of every race and culture. There would be no rock and roll music without the black blues musicians of the USA, no Ska or Reggae without Jamaicans. A world without Jimi Hendrix? No thanks mate. In my own band, we've had three amazing singers who are black. Vanessa Sagoe, Tony Robotham and Connie Abbe are not only friends, but absolutely brilliant musicians who I consider it humbling to have played alongside. Connie sung Spotlight, a song used by Manchester City FC for their website goal of the month show.

A couple of weeks ago, during the Manchester Derby, a City fan racially abused Fred, a United player, making monkey gestures. The idiot has been arrested. I've no idea what goes through the mind of such a complete twat, but I was disgusted. Whilst I find it hard to lose to United, this sickened me. When this idiot did what he did, he not only insulted Fred. He insulted every one of the amazing black players to grace the City shirt ever. Would he have done that if Vincent Kompany was standing next to him? I very much doubt it.

To me, the answer is simple. As a Roman Catholic, I am aware of the process of excommunication of people who commit heresy. Whilst this process has not always been applied sensibly, the concept that you are slung out for ever and that's it mate is one that should be applied to these idiots. Clubs should formally announce that anyone who acts in a racist manner in the stadium has been excommunicated and is no longer a fan of the club. They should lose their season ticket, right to enter the stadium and the right to call themselves a fan. Name and shame them. Get the club captain to publicly sack them as a supporter. I've no idea whether it would change their mind, but it would make people think. I don't want to be associated with such people in any way. The damage they can do is beyond comprehension. What if non white players start boycotting clubs which tolerate racist behaviour? What if teams stop playing at grounds where there is a problem? On BBC Radio London this morning a Spurs fan called Gerald called in. He rightly said that there were 60,000 people at the ground who didn't shout racist abuse. If those 60,000 knew that the one or two idiots would have dire consequences, I believe that they would do something about it. Clubs should ask supporters to inform stewards of such behaviour. Who is more important in the scheme of things, the players or the (probably) drunken moron shouting abuse.

There should be not only zero tolerance, but an active programme to destroy the whole concept that racism  can exist on the terrace. If a lone idiot starts shouting racist abuse or making gestures, and the fans around him do not report him, ban them from the ground for the rest of the season. The clubs know who bought the tickets, so if those people know that they too will be sanctioned, they will soon realise that it is not big and not clever. Generally people don't go to games on their own. They know the season ticket holders around them. It is only when all are aware of the consequences that the problem will be addressed. Peer pressure will be the ultimate killer of such behaviour, but it will only be when people start being banned from grounds for tolerating it that anything will be done.

I'll leave you with Spotlight, featuring Connie Abbe and The False Dots. I believe that we should stand by our friends. Anyone who racially insults anyone, insults all and I for one won't stand for people insulting friends like Connie.

This has to end

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