Robin Scott-Elliot: Sea change in attitudes but prejudice is still defining issue

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The Independent Online

The Let's Kick Racism Out Of Football campaign has been running for 16 years. When it launched in the first year of the Premiership it was possible to sit in the West Stand at Upton Park for a visit of Norwich City and mark Ruel Fox's progress down the wing by the guttural advance of monkey chants along the rows of seats.

The campaign, with the growing support of the FA and the clubs themselves, has proved a quantifiable success in that such behaviour is now rare and when it does occur, as at Stoke on Tuesday night, the perpetrator is promptly dealt with. Clubs have worked hard to kick it out, and it is not surprising that Everton, where John Barnes infamously had a banana thrown at him in 1988, have reacted with such anger at El-Hadji Diouf's claims. Reputations that are easily earned can take generations to rewrite.

The abuse aimed at Jason Euell is the second high-profile incident inside a Premier League ground this season. Carlton Cole was on the receiving end of monkey chants during West Ham's high-octane Carling Cup game with Millwall earlier this month. The fact that these incidents attract such attention is an obvious sign of the sea change in attitudes, and it has become the casually accepted view that this is a problem now largely confined to continental Europe – Bulgarian champions Levski Sofia have this week been ordered to play behind closed doors after their fans displayed racist banners.

But is it? "That's life, isn't it," said Cole of his abuse, so perhaps in a country that has witnessed a growth in far-right activity over the past months maybe that remains the uncomfortable truth.

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