Lots of caveats regarding the abandonment of the FA Cup game between Haringey Borough and Yeovil Town. There were “reports” of racism and people throwing objects onto the pitch, one of which “allegedly” struck the Haringey goalkeeper Valery Douglas Pajetat, who was also “reportedly” spat at. There were a number of additional “reportedlys” and “allegedlys”, so what if it’s all true?
What we do know is that the game was abandoned after Haringey walked off the pitch after their players were subject to racial abuse. I’m prepared to take the club at their word and that they didn’t make it all up. Why on earth would they?
There’s now a police investigation taking place, so I suppose we should be guarded in what we say so instead of talking about Haringey and Yeovil, let’s assume the offending supporters came from Roy Race’s Melchester Rovers and they’ve been found guilty of racial abuse. The first thing is what should be done.
I am no hanger and flogger in the real world. I prefer to see people be given the chance to be rehabilitated after they commit a crime. Having said that, I also have what might be considered to be a contradictory point of view in that we should have zero tolerance of racism. Why? Because everything else we have tried hasn’t worked.
I am still in a degree of shock about what happened to the England players in Bulgaria last week. So this is a useful reminder that we are not squeaky clean. Far from it. I think Bulgaria should be thrown out of the European Championships, the World Cup in 2022 and not be allowed back until they can show this will not happen again. The same with Melchester Rovers.
If a small minority of Melchester fans were abusive to an a Walford player in their FA Cup encounter the club should carry the can. Not a slap on the wrist or a small fine. Kick them out of the cup for this year and the year after, make them play a few games behind closed doors, dock them 10/15 points and ban the miscreants for life. If this means penalising all the innocent fans at Melchester for the actions of a small minority, then too bad. And if it means the club suffering financially and reputationally, so be it.
I’ve thought for years that we don’t do enough to fight racism. At my old club Bristol Rovers, the annual kick it out day was little more than an afterthought, assuming they remembered it at all (one year, not that long ago, the club did forget all about it until a few week’s later). A bunch of schoolchildren walking around the pitch, with some people banging drums and club legend Carl Saunders waving to the fans. Oh, that and a few ‘Kick It Out’ stickers. That literally was it. Rovers were far better than some other clubs and I’ll imagine they’re far better today because that was simply not good enough.
Of course, racism is a societal problem and it could be argued that it’s a matter for society in general to address, not football itself. Sorry, but I don’t buy that.
Well-meaning, almost passive campaigns against racism have barely scratched the surface. Now it’s time to take it more seriously and show the racists that football means business.
And if it means Roy Race misses out on cup glory because of the racism of some of his fans, then he too can get on board with the campaign to ‘Kick It Out’.