Football: Call for clubs to be held liable for abuse

Raheem Sterling being challenged by Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta at Stamford Bridge, where he claimed he was abused while retrieving the ball.
Raheem Sterling being challenged by Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta at Stamford Bridge, where he claimed he was abused while retrieving the ball.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Head of European football's equality group wants FA to punish clubs after Sterling case

LONDON • The head of European football's equality group Fare has said that after two high-profile incidents in successive weekends, the English Football Association should now consider sanctioning clubs where racist abuse occurs.

Last week, a man was arrested after Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a banana skin thrown at him by a Tottenham fan.

On Sunday, Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling confirmed to London police that he had been racially abused by a Chelsea fan during City's 2-0 Premier League loss at Stamford Bridge a day earlier. The Daily Mail revealed that the man has been identified, with his details passed on to the police.

Piara Powar, the executive director of Fare and a trustee of Chelsea's Foundation, told The Times: "The clubs should be directly liable for these incidents. The FA should now explore whether making the clubs liable will be one of the ways of getting to the roots of those tendencies."

No arrests were made after Saturday's game but the FA confirmed it was reviewing footage to ascertain if there had been racist abuse.

It added: "We will work with the clubs and the relevant authorities to ensure this matter is dealt with appropriately."

Meanwhile, Sterling's assertion, made via social media, that the media are fuelling the racism suffered by black players in the English game received widespread support.

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More often than not, the media influences society... The only way we can change racism is if we change the perception of the average black person in the street.

JOHN BARNES, Liverpool and England great, on racism going beyond the pitch.

Following his comments, the Professional Footballers' Association issued a statement that highlighted increased reports of racist abuse, while vowing to stand "shoulder-to-shoulder" with the player.

The footballers' trade union said: "We commend Raheem for his professionalism during the incident and the statement he made via Instagram on Sunday.

"We stand with him in calling for the press to consider the coverage of all footballers carefully, and to end their imbalanced coverage aimed at young, black players.

"We have been aware for a few months of the targeting Raheem faces in the press, it is evident that he is often singled out and treated more harshly than his colleagues.

"As such, these stories are fuelling racism in the game, as reports of racist abuse continue to rise."

Anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out last month released figures that showed reports of discriminatory abuse within football were up 11 per cent from last season. Of the 520 reported incidents, 53 per cent were racism-related.

"While it may be true that no racial slurs have been used in the press coverage received by Raheem and others, we are in no doubt that the negative narrative influences public opinion and emboldens racist rhetoric," the PFA added.

Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand also suggested on social media that black footballers might resort to "taking the knee" - in reference to the protest against racism in American society, started by Colin Kaepernick, where National Football League players kneel during the country's national anthem.

Former Liverpool winger John Barnes, who also faced abuse during his career, felt the issues of race went beyond the pitch. "More often than not, the media influences society... The only way we can change racism is if we change the perception of the average black person in the street," he told the BBC.

REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2018, with the headline 'Call for clubs to be liable for abuse'. Print Edition | Subscribe