"Kick It Out recorded 184 incidents of abuse reported to it at the midway point of this campaign, a 35% increase on the same period last season."
This statistic was gathered back in the season of 2015. 3 years later and racism is still rife in the sport. Football has always had it's struggle to smother out discrimination, yet figures don't seem to be dropping as expected. Whenever the issue is bought up, everyone seems to point back to the 80's. Back then abuse was hurled from the stands towards any black players who featured on the pitch. Not all agreed or joined in with the unfair torment but one thing is for sure, it wasn't erased from the game. Coming into 2017 we appear to be almost no further forward than what we were, nearly 40 years ago, from erasing this matter.
The concern I have is that there appear to be no serious consequences when a hate crime is committed whether it comes from a player, individual or collective not on the pitch. FIFA have the tendency to impose a minor fine or an even more laughable 'ban'. From all the cases of which have hit the mainstream media, it usually concludes with a sum of money being handed over by a particular club as a deterrent. If anyone can remember the terrible scenes from England U21's visit to Serbia where several young players were constantly abused by Serbian fans. You may recall the so called 'fine' which wasn't by any means a hefty sum. It was £16,000. To me, the most concerning of choices came from the Serbian players. Instead of taking a stand to their fans' constant ring of 'Monkey Noises', the young Serbian's decided to confront the England players. I know a lot can be put down to a simple confrontation between the two teams, but it concerns me that nobody other than the England players had the courage to take a stand. Is it really getting to the point where an individual has to stand up for themselves?
Brazil and Real Madrid legend Roberto Carlos, ex-Arsenal youngster Emmanuel Frimpong and Cameroon international Samuel Eto'o have all had short spells in Russia. What will they most likely want to forget whilst featuring in the notoriously hostile country? The bitter cold? The hours spent travelling from game to game? No, unfortunately the more than frequent racial torment from the stands. I am acknowledging that it is certainly not all fans, but at the same time we're not talking about a couple of hundred, unfortunately it appears to be in the thousands. Again, most of the cases were followed up my another coughing up of pocket change by the clubs who certainly aren't shy of finances. Money can't be used as a deterrent, but I'm sure it will continue to be until a firmer stance is taken by FIFA.
One thing I personally find very frustrating is the half-hearted attempt by organisations to appear that they are directly dealing with this black cloud hanging over the world's most loved sport. The banners, the odd leaflet hand-out and the occasional promotional video to 'kick racism out of football', they're all designed to inform that racism isn't to be tolerated. However, when the fake differences are taught to those who commit hate crimes, a simple banner or leaflet is not effective enough. An in depth education programme needs to be installed by both governing bodies and clubs themselves, to prove that a difference in skin colour and culture is not a reason to hate. If a club completely abolishes those who associate with racism, they can only gain. Families will feel more welcomed to games, players from all over the globe will be drawn in and the football will be the main focus of the club rather than the stigma associated. People on all levels need to be taught the benefits of a hate free club. The sooner that racism is eradicated from football the better. Unfortunately due to a small percentage of fans, a lot perceive the 'standard football fan' as aggresive hooligans who live by what we all witnessed in the 80's. In a lot of ways football in general has progressed leaps and bounds over the last 10 or 20 years, we've witnessed a complete transformation in technoligies, quality of play and football is now a globally sociable community where we can mix with fans from the other side of the planet. Let's not allow a small minority to stereotype and hinder the move forward we need as a sport.