Football Expert & Columnist
Fighting racism in football needs urgent action says Graeme Souness
“Be strong, don’t be shy, don’t be timid. Stand up to these idiots and chase them as far down the road as you can"
Last Updated: 21/10/19 8:05am
Graeme Souness has urged everyone to stand up and be counted in the battle against racism in football after this weekend’s issues continue to blight the game.
Bristol City are investigating reports of racist language from supporters against Luton Town while the FA Cup qualifying match between Haringey Borough and Yeovil was abandoned after the players walked off the pitch due to alleged racist abuse.
And Souness, speaking as a Sky Sports pundit alongside Roy Keane and Jose Mourinho ahead of Manchester United vs Liverpool, live on Sky Sports Premier League, launched a scathing attack on "the idiots" spoiling it for everyone.
"Historically the mantra has always been it's just a few people that turn up and spoil it for everyone," Souness said.
"I think we've now reached a point where it now has to be spoilt for everyone - whether it's players walking off, closing parts of grounds or indeed closing entire stadiums.
"We have to stand up and be counted - you cannot accept this in the 21st century, we're meant to be an educated country.
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"Football mirrors society and if you are a decision-maker or part of the establishment then do something about it now.
"Don't talk about what you are going to do in a month's time, six months' time or a year. Act on it now.
"It's with us now, it's current, it's in our face so deal with it now. Be strong, don't be shy, don't be timid. Stand up to these idiots and chase them as far down the road as you can.
"This cannot go on as it's a reflection on all of us - people see Britain as a major influence throughout the world so let's be at the forefront and come up with something radical to challenge it and show we're not prepared to accept it."
'We can't brush this under the carpet now'
Journalist Melissa Reddy also believes a firm stance is now needed after the incident at Haringey proved that racism is prevalent at every level of the game.
Speaking on Sunday Supplement, Reddy said: "It's always been brushed under the carpet because it's not high profile enough.
"It's not Paul Pogba receiving racist messages on Twitter, which then kicks everybody into gear, and makes the front pages and everybody takes the moral high ground.
"The punishment needs to centre around those that are guilty. Racial abuse is not rivalry, it's not heightened tribalism, it's a crime and it needs to be punished as a crime.
"We need to improve across all levels including access to the footage, taking better witness statements from everybody and making sure at every game there are people there who are able to record and report footage.
"It can't just be about hashtags, slogans on balls, fancy little programmes or any of those things. They don't make any difference.
"You must punish this behaviour with the strongest possible tools at your disposal. Like I said it's a criminal act so your deal with it accordingly."
'We need to get our house in order'
The weekend's incidents come on the back of England's players being subjected to racial abuse during their Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria in Sofia.
Although Gareth Southgate's side did not walk off the pitch in the end, it caused widespread condemnation which has so far led to 16 arrests.
And while all eyes are on further FIFA and UEFA actions, there is also heightened scrutiny on the English FA to act following the recent incidents.
Speaking on Goals on Sunday, Chris Hughton said: "England and Gareth Southgate came out of the game in Bulgaria with a lot of credit but it is important we get our own house in order.
"I think it could be a pivotal moment but going forward, it's about making sure the right action happens.
"It's all about the environment too - increasing the amount of CCTV cameras, stewarding so that even if people have these feelings, it might just stop them venting them."