I joined Howard Gayle, Liverpool's first black professional football player on a platform to discuss the problems of racism in football. Readers with a very long memory will remember that we first met in 2007. I talked about racism, anti-semitism, homophobia and sexism within football and Howard talked about his personal experiences as a footballer and his long association with Kick it Out and Show Racism The Red Card. He was extremely moving and eloquent.
I concluded my contribution by saying that the best and most effective way in which ordinary fans could combat racism (or any other hate based abuse) in the stands would be to report, to "dob in", any fans sitting nearby who were engaging in racist language and abuse.
So I was very pleased to read a story in the papers this week which reads
AN EVERTON fan who racially abused two Premier League footballers in front of his wife, children and grandson was banned from football matches for three years and banned from Goodison Park indefinitely.
William Blything hurled the abuse at Everton’s Victor Anichebe and Queens Park Rangers’ Korean captain Park Ji-Sung as the teams drew 1-1 at Loftus Road on October 21.
Blything, of Moss Pits Lane, Wavertree, was found guilty of a single count of racially- aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress at West London Magistrates’ Court.
He was fined £2,500, plus £600 costs with a victim surcharge of £120,and handed a football banning order for three years.
The 42-year-old was arrested after he was reported to stewards by two fellow Evertonians.
This is exactly the kind of action I was talking about during my speech. If every right-minded football supporter was to seek out fans with the same views, and agree to oppose racism (and other hate based abuse) in the ground and report people who they hear being racist (or anti-Semitic, or homophobic etc) then we will soon stamp it out. I would love to see someone with money pay out for lapel badges and banners for every single ordinary decent fan to wear and carry at every game so that they feel empowered to report wrong-doers during matches.
(And yes I think there is plenty enough money in football to provide amply for this).
I want to generate circumstances where racists and fascists are too scared to shout racist chants or abuse players because they know for certain that others nearby will definitely report them.
I have thought for a long time that we need a REPORT THE RACISTS culture in football, this week's news suggests, very happily, that Everton FC is up there in the Premier League for Combatting Racism for encouraging this sort of challenging behaviour!
Well done to those two true Evertonians!