As featured in the Worthing Herald, Chichester Observer, Midhurst & Petworth Observer and the Bognor Regis Observer, my column on the truth about how racism and homophobia are so rife in football
It’s ironic that as this article is published I, among others, will post it on Twitter and various other social media platforms, leaving myself open to all sorts of abuse, praise and insults.
Ironic because the topic of this particular column is racism in sport, and the role Twitter has played in us witnessing this subject rearing its ugly head once again.
At various football grounds this season, and on Twitter and elsewhere, examples that racism is still rife in both sport and society have been unduly demonstrated.
John Terry, the England captain, and Liverpool’s Luis Suarez are among those who have found themselves at the centre of allegations of racist behaviour.
Kick it Out, a pressure group dedicated to rooting out the remnants of racism in English football, is in danger of having its messages swamped by football’s tribal loyalties.
Some recent cases have exposed extreme and deep-seated divisions of opinion. They can be categorised easily enough. Almost everything, it seems, depends on which team you happen to support.
These well-publicised examples seemed to ignite something within a number of so-called football “fans” who seem to think racism is acceptable. To coin an old phrase; “well if he can do it, so can I”.
At the Liverpool v Oldham FA Cup tie, racial abuse was reportedly directed at Oldham’s Tom Adeyemi from an individual in the Kop. The young lad was visibly upset and both sets of players were trying to console him. His experience of playing at one of football’s greatest clubs and iconic stadiums will forever be remembered as the place he was racially abused.
But can Liverpool be blamed for a fan allegedly saying what he said? Can they be expected to really control every single fan and what they say? No, I don’t think they can.
Let’s also make this clear – for every one idiotic person shouting racial abuse on the terraces, there are hundreds of decent human beings surrounding him willing to ensure he never sets foot in their stadium again. Unfortunately by the time vulgar racists have opened their mouths, the damage has already been done.
So on to Twitter. This platform of social media is almost the definition of yin and yang. It displays the good, the bad, and the extremely ugly. Stan Collymore was the subject of racial abuse. I saw these tweets aimed at Stan and was left speechless. Someone had the audacity to publish these disgusting comments on Twitter – others came out with comments which mocked Gary Speed’s tragic death.
This is the problem – society. Twitter is an open field for anyone wanting to publicly contact high-profile names. It puts us all in touching distance of verbal assaults which can stick with you for a lifetime.
Most of us have a computer now, and that’s all you need, so it seems. Common sense and general goodwill towards fellow human beings seems to have dropped down the agenda of life’s priorities. I, among hundreds of Brighton & Hove Albion fans, was subjected to homophobic abuse on Twitter by a handful of Newcastle United followers following the FA Cup draw. We were told that we lived in an “Aids infested town” – among other crude jibes. After biting to these insults, I was subjected to further verbal abuse on my Twitter feed.
Their defence was that they were purely stating the facts and that I should “shut up and die of Aids”.
Society, eh? I wish this were an isolated incident, but like the racist slurs encountered recently, it’s not. Brighton fans are subjected to homophobic chants from opposition fans on a regular basis – so if they can do it in a stadium, what’s stopping them from hiding behind their profiles online and doing it on Twitter too? Nothing, sadly.
But in their eyes they are doing nothing wrong. So many supporters appear to have adopted the old patriotic slogan and adapted it to “My club, my player – right or wrong”. This is the most dispiriting development in what was supposed to be the last assault on racial and homophonic prejudice in English football.