Premiership pre-match press conferences this week have been dominated by talk of the English players being racially abused in Montenegro. Some of the top bosses have given ideas about possible sanctions, ranging from teams walking off the pitch, 10-minute breaks, etc.
Pep Guardiola passionately spoke about how football can help educate people. The irony being that no man has been more outspoken about racism in the UK, more than his midfielder Sterling. Yet when the winger was clearly being verbally attacked at Stamford Bridge, the ref, his captain, his coach, no one ……. asked if he wanted to walk off the field.
That’s okay though, because every summer clubs get together to agree rules/regulations in his to make the game better. Surely then, first on the agenda will not be clarification on offside or consistency on VAR but a signed document on agreed punishments for when supporters break the law. The reality of course is in a week’s time we will be debating something else, with nothing done to clean up the sport.
While the likes of Klopp or Sarri might mean what they say, they could also be reeling off bullet points from a statement prepared by their PR team. There have been so many incidents that in 2019, talk is cheap. There is so much money in the industry that if owners/chairmen really were disgusted by racial discrimination, they could put their money where they mouth is. The fact they won’t agree to any legislation that could directly hurt them tells you where their priorities are. You mention empty stadiums or points deductions as a deterrent, they’re thinking about finances not the welfare of people.
It’s not just the millionaires. When Jack Grealish was hit by a fan a month ago, I suggested what the consequences could be. Certain readers didn’t feel the majority should be hurt by the minority. The FA don’t seem to be doing anymore to the Blues than a fine. Just like they didn’t do anything brave to make an example out of the idiot who threw a banana at Auba. Having promised action, what action plan was put in place after the Sterling/Chelsea incident?
Because of course the moment matches played behind closed doors, or away fans are banned, that’s England admitting we have a problem in our league. That in turns affects the image of us being ‘the best in the world’. From there you have a domino effect. Less companies want to sponsor a product with empty seats. Businesses wouldn’t appreciate missing out on traveling fans spending money in their cities for a whole weekend.
So, think about that and ask yourself, is a Stan Kroenke really going to encourage players walking off a pitch? So many look down on Italy and Croatia for crowd trouble, like we are above that in Britain. Yet our version of Zero tolerance is it exists as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone in the pocket.