The FA and League has only themselves (and the police, and Tottenham) to blame for the racism mess

By Tony Attwood

According to reports Tom Adeyemi who plays for Oldham, on loan from Norwich City, was racially abused by one or more Liverpool fans at the Anfield ground last night.  He gave a statement to Merseyside Police in which it is understood he claimed to have been racially abused twice by a supporter.

The Guardian today states that, “Witnesses reported seeing two fans wearing Luis Suárez T-shirts – similar to those worn by Liverpool players at Wigan last month, after the Uruguayan was found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra – confronting Adeyemi. A witness who gave evidence to Liverpool officials and the police said: “I was to the right of the Kop and the No11 turned to walk away after a tackle. I heard a single voice shout, ‘You fucking black bastard.’ He spun round with shock on his face and started pointing at the crowd, from where the shout had come”.”

No one was arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated behaviour, even though the club will know exactly who was in which seat for the all-ticket match.

Liverpool continue to appear to be a club that is institutionally racist in itself.  It’s support of before and after his eight-match ban for racially abusing Evra, their refusal to apologise profusely to Evra, and Luis Suárez’ failure to apologise properly (a generalised apology to everyone for “any offence caused” is certainly not an apology in the context of racism), and their bleating requests for help from Manchester United ahead of the next Man U/Liverpool game all point to a club that does not understand the nature of racism.

But, as always, there is history.

If you have been reading Untold since the early days you might recall that I got rather exercised when in 2008 Hampshire police announced the investigating of racial and homophobic abuse directed by Tottenham fans towards Sol Campbell at a Portsmouth v Tottenham game.

The police said they would report the matter to the Football Association because it was not possible to make arrests due to the sheer numbers chanting.

The chant was perhaps the most appalling ever heard at a game.  It has appeared in the press, but as before I won’t reprint it.

Five arrests were made later following photo identification of a handful of fans, but Tottenham fans have continued with the song and the chants without any action being taken against them at all.  The footage of the game is still available, and most of those in the enclosure would have bought their tickets through Tottenham H itself, and therefore the matter of matching the individuals shown singing on film against those on the files of the club is not difficult.

There was no excuse for not arresting these people, banning them for life from Tottenham games, and charging them under a variety of offences relating to homophobic behaviour.  There is no excuse for the FA and the League not dealing with Liverpool either in the way they have handled the Evra affair, or for last night.

The police assertion at Portsmouth that they could take no action because everyone was doing it, also needed to be investigated but never was either by the club or the EPL or the FA. It was instead the green light to racism and football has been on the back foot ever since as racism and homophobia creep back into football year on year.

A ban on away support for Tottenham matches could have helped.  It would have hurt the decent minority of their travelling fans – and that is regrettable, but the majority who seem to enjoy this sort of thing, would also be hurt, and that would be helpful, in my view.

I was at Arsenal in the 50s as a youngster, and through my teens in the 60s, and as a young man in the 70s, and I heard a lot of awful chanting and abuse.  At time racism and homophobia was commonplace – but the club dealt with it.  First all the racism went, and then having dealt with that Arsenal started to work on anti-Semitism.

I know there is still anti-Semitism at the ground when Tottenham play, just as I know that there are people who are anti-Semitic when Arsenal play away.  But the club has (and this is just my opinion as one who has been going to the ground through most of my life) worked to remove it.  Just as Tottenham fans don’t raise the Star of David when playing at Arsenal any more (as they once did), so the number chanting “Yiddo” at the end of the “Hate Tottenham” chant declines year by year (although I admit that is a more difficult one because of the hard core Tottenham fans adopting the word Yid as part of their self-description.  I don’t condone “Yiddo” chants, I just acknowledge that it is harder to get rid of).

But the fact is that Arsenal has fought and fought to eradicate racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitic statements from the ground, in the way that many other clubs (including I believe, Liverpool) have not.   Some have joined in the effort rather later – and the press is now full of praise for Man U and the way that after more than 10 years of accepting it, they have made some effort to stop the abuse of our manager at each game.  Man U’s record is awful, but at least at long last they are travelling in the right direction.

But Liverpool are not.  The fact is that Liverpool are getting deeper and deeper into a hole of their own making.  They could have taken action years ago to deal with racism, just as Tottenham and the police could have taken action to deal with homophobic chanting, but they have chosen to step back and say it can’t be done.  They could have waited for the outcome of the recent racism case, accepted the verdict and apologised with all their might.  To accept the verdict “for the good of football” rather than because racism is disgusting, shows just how deep they have sunk.

Liverpool seems to have utterly no idea what to do.   That’s why we have the current mess.

20 Replies to “The FA and League has only themselves (and the police, and Tottenham) to blame for the racism mess”

  1. Agree with your comments on Liverpool, but I wouldn’t differentiate between racism and anti semitism as you do. In fact, I think you probably do it deliberately to enable you to claim that racism has gone at arsenal. Well, it hasnt. I have sat amongst plenty of disgusting anti-Jewish chanting at the emirates.

    As for homphobia. You don’t recall the ashley cole songs? Sang relentlessly for seasons.

    Now, let’s not pat ourselves on the back just yet. Being less backward than Liverpool doesn’t say much for starters. Plus, if we are judging this on the amount of overtly stated prejudice by fans at games, then the yiddo chants keep us top of the charts. Sorry.

  2. What about the chants against Wenger?

    they are slanderous in the extreme, so why don’t the police identify the people making them?

    As long as the FA gives with one hand and takes with the other,
    (pays lip-service to anti-racism, and at the same time uses a crooked set of scales for players like Viera and Song) then of course it is a dog’s dinner.

    It’s a shame John Terry didn’t just come clean straight away, and admit what he’d said, and apologize. As England Captain he sets the tone really.

    When Viv Richards was called a ## he said “I don’t mind the ‘black’, it’s having the legitimacy of my birth questioned that I take offence to”.

  3. Execellent analysis Tony.
    Since coming to the UK from East Africa for the first time with my parents over 30 years ago, at the age of 5 years, the issue of racism in football has fascinated and disgusted me for many, many years since I began appreciating the game and the culture that surrounds it.
    Let us not pretend, football is followed and enjoyed by many supporters which come from, that horribly termed group, the “working” or “lower-educated” classes. That is the same cohort from which most of the simple-thinking and naive AAA set that we constantly hear and read spout vitriole about our club come from.
    Racism, and xenophobia for that matter, are still big problems within the vast majority of societies and not just in the sport of football. Furthermore, they are not going to disappear anytime soon but have reached a status-quo in the UK from their incredible highs in the 70’s and 80’s to what we have now. The only way, as you’ve highlighted, to ultimately triumph over it completely is to adopt a more extensive and FULLY zero-tolerance strategy towards ANYONE indulging or protecting and supporting such acts.
    Liverpool FC have made a MASSIVE MISTAKE in how they have behaved in this case and you just need to read the 115 page FA report to see that. Unfortunately, most of the people that work in football are from the same background as these people and their lack of social incite into this will not “switch-a-light-on” in their thinking to comprehend this! Racism in Football will now go back 30 years in Liverpool if they do not turn around and address this emerging undercurrent in their historical club. Additionally, they must stop using Hillsborough and Heysal as defense arguments for what they perceive as injustice or persecution. This issue is too serious today to be trivialised from things that have happened in the past!

  4. Furthermore, football, not just within the UK, can play the most important lead in removing such disgusting attitudes from our societies because of its incredible influence on the impressionable younger and the older generations! The authorities throughout the world should really have appreciated this all by now!

  5. Thanks for trying to offer some perspective on the current debacle. I find the FA’s course of action absolutely symbolic of their mismanagement.

    I am not an apologist for Mr. Suarez or LFC but I cannot help notice the usual inconsistency in application of the rules. In enforcing Rule E 3(2), with respect to Mr. Evra’s complaint, they rejected Mr. Suarez’ claim that he was only referring to the colour black. The commission’s response was that what mattered was the fact Mr. Suarez’ choice of words was intended to hurt. So far, so good. I don’t think that any reasonable person would disagree.

    However, Mr. Evra was absolved because he only referred to Mr. Suarez as a ‘South American’. Where do you draw the line between the disingenuous and the mendacious? What Mr. Evra is held to have called Mr. Suarez was a ‘sudaca’ – defined as a profanity or pejorative term not usually spoken to someone’s face. Using the commission’s own standard. wasn’t Mr. Evra’s word choice equally intended to hurt? The rule covers ‘ethnic origin, colour, race, nationality, faith, gender, sexual orientation or disability. Therefore, either the commission should have flatly denied the claim or, I suggest, Mr. Evra was also guilty. To reduce the translation of ‘sudaca’ to simply mean South American is a joke.

    Without wishing the debate to sink to an argument with respect to the greater guilt, or relative punishments, I am merely trying to point out the obvious. With their usual ham-fisted direction the FA have allowed the opportunity to strike a blow against racism in particular, and hate crimes in general, to disintegrate into the usual Man U – Liverpool peeing contest.

    Not only did the FA mismanage the Suarez/Evra case which, incidentally, dates back to October 15th, do we really expect them to take any preventative action before the return match at Old Trafford on February 11th?

    As reprehensible as the fans’ behaviour was, at Anfield, last night, is anyone really surprised? Nothing excuses it – but nothing has been done to stop it, either.

  6. I can’t remember a lot of African Liverpool players in recent seasons. Could racism go deeper at Kop?!

  7. @Sisyphus, I understand your argument but i beg to disagree with you here.
    Had it been a recipricol argument then surely LFC would have used it more vociferously in Suarez’s defence. In addition, i have not heard of many South Americans persecuted, or murdered, in British society because of their “South American” status. Had Evra been called French or Senegale by Suarez then there would have been no case but in using his colour, it makes Suarez and Liverpool’s position historically indefensible.

  8. @ DC

    A racist comment, act or any insult is not offensive depending on the country it is used in but should be deemed offensive considering the point of view of the person / people it is aimed at.

  9. @Stuart, I’m not sure I understand your point because being called a “South American” in that particular situation may not be considered racist in the UK but being called “a black” certainly does in most British people’s point of view and cultural background?!
    There is no clean party here but what this whole case has highlighted is how far society still has to go to achieve genuine inequality – and not just in the pretentious, fluffy, sterile manner that we are all led to believe. It just is not that simple!

  10. DC
    Sorry, having read your comment again I see I have mis-interpreted it. Please accept my apologies.

  11. The FA can and should be criticised for a lot of things, but I think they can be given a bit of credit for taking the Suarez incident seriously and handing out an 8 match ban. In my mind it’s Liverpool under the stewardship of Dalglish that has been the problem. Daglish failed to recognise that the issue was bigger than two football players squaring upto each other in the heat of a game. Liverpool have had a few opportunities to calm the situation down, but they haven’t. The owners have a dilema as ‘king kenny’ isn’t really sackable and I don’t think he would take too kindly to interferance from them either. I think the PR dept could do a lot worse than asking Steven Gerrard to step in and calm the situation down a bit. As one thing is for sure the aura of Daglish has taken a big blow. The next time he picks up the phone to demand an audience with the head of the referee’s or the FA even, it might just go straight to voicemail.

  12. @Stuart,
    There’s nothing for you to apologise for mate; I’m just glad you understand the point that I was trying to make.

  13. @ DC 9:11

    My humble apologies. I understood the FA’s mandate to be to administer the rules of the game, not to attempt to right 400 years of historical wrongs or provide redress for persecutions and murders in British society.

    You are (deliberately?) misrepresenting my position. Using the word ‘sudaca’ is not the equivalent of calling Mr. Evra French. I don’t know where the word ‘sudaca’ would fit on a scale of ‘yank’, ‘frôg’, ‘w*p’, ‘ch!nk’, ‘p@ki’ or other such charming epithets but it does not simply translate as South American as you and the commission suggest. The point remains that however you choose to translate the word it was spoken in a hurtful way and by the parameters established by the commission that was an offense under the rules.

    Mr. Evra was guilty. I do not attempt to assess blame or level of offense. You can plead mitigation through history, with respect to penalty, but don’t suggest that that history can be used in perpetuity as a justification for him to escape the consequences of his actions.

    I was raised to believe that “Not only must justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.” In terms of the enforcement of the laws of the game the entire football establishment is failing miserably on both counts. The rules are not applied evenly. There is insufficient accountability and transparency. Being infallible means you are never responsible for any wrongs; or ‘never having to say you’re sorry’.

    Please don’t tell me how badly Mr. Suarez, Mr. Dalglish, and LFC have behaved throughout this episode. That is a given. What is not a given is that their behaviour justifies the denial of equal application of the rules. Mr. Suarez and LFC were unable to plead their case because Mr. Suarez’ testimony was unreliable – read ‘we don’t believe a word you’re saying’. How dare he suggest that there might be cultural differences in the the translation of specific foreign words. Doesn’t he know he’s in England now?

    It took two to tangle. Only one was prosecuted. To deny this is to ignore the fact that a significant portion of fans will feel aggrieved and that the stated aim of fighting or reducing racism – even though Mr. Suarez isn’t a racist (?) – will be set back rather than advanced. I do not condone this attitude, but I do think the League ignores it at their peril.

  14. @Stuart, I am not “deliberately” misinterpreting your argument but i think that you are analysing the significance of the issues with the mind of an educated, inclusive and liberal person, which unfortunately is not the same as that of all in a multi-cultural society! Sadly, purely academic ways of addressing this difficult issue will never lead to rapid change in the way one hopes (hence the need for such aggressive policies as affirmative action and ethnic diversity in the work-place).
    Evra certainly is guilty too for his act, and i hope he is punished at a later day for another similar event, but at this time Suarez and Liverpool FC had to be punished for what was seen as the more systematically calculated wrong on his part, even if we do not agree that it was far greater, in order to make a strong statement that change needs to aggressively expedited in this issue!

  15. DC,
    I think your response may have been aimed at Sisyphus but thanks for the compliment 😉

  16. DC

    My ‘purely academic ways’ would have seen two obnoxious, abusive twits treated equally under the rules of the game. Being treated equally does not mean equal punishment, but it does mean acknowledging that no misconduct will escape punishment. I think this has a better chance of bringing about the change you seek than the current decision which will inevitably, like much else in football, feed the rampant paranoia present in the ‘us vs them’ culture.

    No matter the relative degrees of guilt, some Liverpool fans will feel aggrieved that Mr. Evra walked away scot-free. I fail to see how praying that Mr. Evra pays the price ‘at some later date for another similar event’ serves any purpose. Surely it is better that he faces the charge now and be warned as to his future conduct.

    I know that I am only a fuzzy minded liberal but I fail to see how your way can be considered an aggressively expedited policy that will bring about rapid change.

    I really hope that I am wrong – but I fear that history is on my side.

    I can’t close without thanking you for the opportunity to debate the issues without spiraling down into name calling and similar disparaging remarks. (“Liberal” not withstanding. You should be aware that that term is a pejorative where I live, if not in England.) ;~)

  17. @Sisyphus,
    Thank you for the debate and I do hope that these issues, which are far greater than sport only, can achieve the equality that all fair-minded people aspire to sooner rather than later.
    Wrt the Suarez-Evra incident; fate has dealt both clubs, and Evra, a strange twist of fate by drawing them against each other in the next round of the FA cup and also at Anfield! We will certainly now wait and see what progress has been made and what the FA, and police, will have to deal with this time?! Let us ALL hope that nothing further occurs and that “respect” and “kick-it-out” are the adages of the day?!

  18. Sisyphus, I find the points you make enlightening. It was obvious that Patrice Evra had said something which greatly offended Luis Suarez but up to now the papers did not seem to report what it could be.

    When the British press claims to be taking an anti-racist stand it is in general purest hypocrisy in my view. Every day the British media is full of crude characterisations of people from different nations. Articles holding immigrants to blame for every kind of social ill abound.

    It is hard to expect people in general to be broad minded and enlightened when they are being fed this stuff all the time.

    I feel very sorry for the young player who was racially abused by the Liverpool fan. Such abuse is very demeaning. I agree that the one sided way this dispute has been dealt with is unfortunately likely to lead to unthinking people taking out their frustration on innocent parties, inexcusable and deeply unhelpful as that may be.

    When Arsene Wenger was asked by a journalist if there was a problem of insults by foreign players, he said there was, and by English players too. He also pointed out that players can be clearly seen to tell the ref to f… off on the television with no punishment.

    In general what we want is respect for each other on the football pitch and in life. There are numerous ways to wind people up and insult them but is that what football should be about?

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