Ava Vidal: It is time for the Civil Rights Movement to hit the football pitch

 

So the trial is over. John Terry has been found innocent. It was agreed by all, including Terry himself, that he called Anton Ferdinand a black c**t - but the magistrate held that we couldn’t be sure how he meant it. OK then.

Looking away from Terry, the ugly issue of racism is one that keeps raising its head when we speak about the beautiful game. And it is a very divisive issue amongst fans, players and footballing authorities. Nobody is united on how to deal with it.

Seb Blatter caused outrage last year when he advised victims of racism to just shake hands with their abusers at the end of the game. “Why do we have to talk about racism? Leave it out of football! It’s just a game!” is what is often said to those that complain about it. Though I notice this is directed always to the victims and never to the perpetrators.

Recently Sol Campbell advised black and Asian football fans not to travel to watch any Euro 2012 games because of the chance that they may be victims of racial attacks that may result in serious injury or even death. Many including the family of Arsenal player Theo Walcott took his advice and stayed away.

His comments so outraged some England fans that they expressed their unhappiness by holding a demonstration against him chanting “Sol you’re wrong.”

After England crashed out of the tournament after losing on penalties (yet again) we saw a glimpse of what black players still have to put up with from their so called fans. After Ashley Young and Ashley Cole- one of John Terry’s defence witnesses-missed their penalty shots Twitter was full of racist comments about the two players.

Some of the abuse was so horrifying that many people including myself forwarded the tweets to the police so that they could investigate. England have missed many penalties in many games yet when a white player misses, never is their colour brought into it. I wonder how many of those at the anti-Sol demo were as horrified by this? Even if they were it was obviously not enough to demonstrate about it.

Inspired in part by this case Clarke Carlise explored the issue in a documentary called ‘Is Football Racist?’ I was interviewed as I am a huge football fan and a patron of the charity Show Racism the Red Card.

I have listened with disgust as former players describe what it was like to be the first black players in the big clubs. They faced abuse at the hands of opposing fans and team members. Sometimes they had to endure it from their own fans and even their team mates.

Tales of bananas being thrown on to the pitch, monkey noises every time they touched the ball and one player told me he had lost count of the times that he had been racially abused. 

Fast forward to 2012 and not much has changed. But what can we do about it? As Clarke Carlise found out there is still a reluctance to talk about how extensive the issue is. He found it easy to find contributors from retired players but current players even the high profile ones don’t want to be seen to speak out.

Football is a lucrative but short-lived career and if you stick your head above the parapet then you risk being seen as a troublemaker or someone with a chip on their shoulder. You could be dismissed by management and lose sponsorship deals worth thousands and sometimes millions of pounds.

The footballing authorities must do something about the current situation. At the moment they do not support the victims. UEFA recently announced that any black players that walks off the football pitch during a game after receiving racial abuse shall be given a yellow card. The message they sent is clear-we don’t care enough about you to deal with the racists, but if you try to you’ll be punished.

It is time for the Civil Rights Movement to hit the football pitch. Black players and their team mates need to show a united front and deal with this problem. They must do it for the black fans that want to enjoy the sport, the up and coming black players and the children that look up to them.

They must also do it for themselves. When they tell their grandchildren the story of when a racist threw a banana on the pitch, do they want to tell them they dribbled around it? Or that the person that threw it ended up with a soft yellow suppository?

Any victim of racial abuse should leave the pitch immediately and their team mates should follow. We need to boycott clubs and organisations that refuse to deal with this issue of racism. Once they suffer economic hardship then we will see how quickly they can deal with the issue. And maybe we can show racism the red card once and for all.

Ava Vidal is a comedian and a patron of Show Racism the Red Card.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
News
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'