SRtRC Honorary President gives his view on players not wearing the KIO T Shirts at the weekend.
As Honorary President and founder member of Show Racism the Red Card, of course I am aware of the Kick It Out campaign and their sterling work of the past. I also appreciate the need for English football to come good and address what has been a terrible 12 months in terms of racism in the game at the highest level. Only the game benefits from strong decisive action handed down with unflinching authority by those holding the reins.
Similarly though, as a friend and former teammate of Jason Roberts, Rio and Anton Ferdinand, I not only sympathise with their collective stand I fully support it. For too long, black and minority players have felt that the authorities have paid only lip-service to the serious issue of racism in the English game. An issue that has been easy to hide or ignore as incidents at the highest and most visible level have been few and far between, or committed only by ultra divisions of other leagues or of other national teams. At which point the criticism was scalding and unanimous. Not so this time.
The perceived reason being, and the only plausible explanation for many, is that the racist abuse came from an Englishman. The England captain at that.
In my opinion, a fine for a player that has and continues to earn as much out of the game as John Terry is meaningless. A four-game suspension is a slap in the face of what has been a unified call for stronger action. A call which the FA themselves echo when the accused are fans of other nations.
And here lies the FA’s dilemma. A dilemma of their own making. By being as soft as they were on John Terry they have contradicted themselves and ostracized the very people and ideals they intended to support and champion.
The actions of Rio, Anton, Jason and a growing number of others may just be the catalyst to the dinner-table-and-beyond discussions that the game sorely needs. The only way forward is frank and meaningful discussion between minority players, their representatives, the Premier League, the FA and groups such as Kick It Out and SRtRC. The game after all is supposed to positively impact society. That impact is greatest when all genuinely feel included. Racism is so much more than a been-there-worn-the-t shirt issue.