Manchester City and England forward Raheem Sterling, made headlines this week as he continues to speak on the disgusting trend of racism in football.
Sterling has been a victim of racism on the field, with the latest incident being at Stamford Bridge earlier this season. This drove him to advocate for a change, especially for the younger generation of footballers coming up behind him. He has since signed a manifesto, along with other players and clubs, that seeks to address this kind of discrimination. Sterling has also offered solutions to this problem. He suggests that more racial minorities, including Black and Asian people head clubs and governing bodies. He is also suggesting that clubs with fans chanting racist things lose nine points and play their matches behind closed doors.
I definitely agree that racism in football is prevalent, vile and needs to be taken care of. As football fans we see it time and time again, and even with their own black footballers on field, fans will still hurl racist insults to the black player on the opposing team. This is not friendly banter and there is no place for it. However, I don't think deducting nine points will be a worthwhile initiative.
I understand the rationale that fans would think twice about yelling racist insults at players if they knew their club may lose points. This may very well work, so Sterling may be on to something. I also get that if the stakes are so high then clubs would put more effort into ridding racism from their stands...
If clubs can lose points because of fans, how do we stop opposing fans from sabotaging a team? It may seem silly, and we'd want to think that people wouldn't yell racist things so that another team can lose points, but I don't put it past them.
Football is a huge money making business, and I really think to effect change you have to hit them where it hurts, their pockets. The fines for indiscipline that are often charged from clubs should continue, and perhaps the funds should be sent to an organization that helps minorities, since they are often the victims of racism.
Sterling was spot when he recommended playing matches behind closed door because of racist fans. This has been done in other parts of Europe, and in other competitions excluding the Premier League. This will cause the club to lose revenue, and force their racist fans to stay home with their slurs. It's just unfortunate, though, that it will be a case of the good suffering for the bad. Fans will miss out on important games because of a few bad apples. This should motivate people to pinch the racist people around them and have them put their fingers on their lips during these matches so that we don't all suffer.
Another thing that needs to stop is the demonizing of players that are being affected by racism on the field. I won't forget how Sulley Muntari, a player for Pescara and Ghana, asked the referee to stop the match because of the racist abuse he was receiving but instead was shown a yellow card for dissent. Clubs can also get fined if the team walks off the field because of racist chants, and it makes no sense to me. They should also continue to ban fans from the stands for racist remarks so they get the message that they aren't welcomed.
Further to the adjustments in stadiums, the "Say No to Racism" banner that has been touted year after year at football matches needs to apply to every aspect of society. Sometimes people make it seem as though racism in football is isolated and they have no idea why it is happening. If the society sees racism and rewards it by either condoning it or turning a blind eye, we can't expect that people will take off their racism in the football stadium.
Racist jokes and stereotypes will have to be abandoned, too, because it just further compounds the issue. Many of these societies are inherently racist but become angry when the spotlight is placed on it. They prefer their racism neatly hidden. Racism will ooze into every aspect of society, and has to be tackled on a societal level for any of these sanctions to truly work.
If these sanctions do work, we can't say we have a fair and just society all of a sudden, what you will have is a stadium of silent racists.