Racism in football is back in the news this week with the eight match ban handed down to Liverpool’s Luis Suarez for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrick Evra and, today, the news that John Terry is facing criminal prosecution for allegedly racially abusing QPR's Anton Ferdinand.
The Football Association is just as much in the dock as its reputation and credibility is scrutinised at home and abroad. The stakes were raised last month when the FA spoke out at the apparent indifference towards racism in football by FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, after he claimed that racial abuse on the field could be dealt with by a handshake after the game.
The FA appear to have handled the Suarez case in accordance with the rules and appear only to have come to their judgement after much deliberation. It is sad that Suarez’s Liverpool team-mates and manager rallied round him without even slightest concern of his guilt. Wearing T-shirts in support of him undermines efforts to stamp out racism within the game. Let us just hope that at some stage in the future these same Liverpool players, who appear so quick to jump to Suarez’s defence, are not left annoyed with players of a rival team who rally round someone who has abused one of their own.
The John Terry incident raises even more serious questions. Obviously he is innocent until proven guilty, but it seems totally inappropriate for him to remain England captain whilst criminal charges hang over him. He was stripped of the captaincy after a Sunday newspaper exposed an extra-marital affair so it would only seem correct that he is once again forced to stand down as captain while charges of using racist language exist.
English football has done much to rid itself of racism over the last fifteen years and we can rightly boast to have the most pro-active national football association on this issue anywhere in Europe. The FA should act decisively over John Terry’s captaincy rather than be forced to act later under pressure. How can we seem to lecture other countries and FIFA if they fail to deal with this issue swiftly? If John Terry is found not guilty then he can regain the captaincy at some future date. If he has the interests of the game, and indeed the national team, at heart then he will also want to step aside as soon as possible.
Hope not hate