Published in Gair Rhydd on 7th November 2011.
British football has made huge progress in the past twenty years in the manner in which racism is dealt with. In the 1980s, BBC pundit Leroy Rosenior has said that he was victimised en masse by crowds making monkey noises within English football stadiums.
From these dark days, we have developed a footballing community that doesn't tolerate racial abuse in any form. After Blackpool striker Jason Euell was racially abused at Stoke in 2009, a man was identified by fellow fans and detained by stewards, before later being banned for life. We have improved hugely, but the on-field allegations of the past month have caused some to question whether we've progressed as much as we like to think.
That, however, is the key point. At the moment, we can only question what has been alleged. Until the FA conclude their investigations, we can not say that racism is prevalent in our game.
Sadly, we live in a time where football rivalries are so prominent that some appear to be hoping for allegations to be proven, simply to score points over others. If allegations of racism by John Terry and Luis Suarez were disproved, the salvation of pride within football would be far more satisfying than any stick provided to beat two of football's most controversial characters.
It is crucial that the FA reach swift, but accurate conclusions. Whilst these cases linger, the reputation of the game in England as a whole will suffer. Campaigns such as Kick It Out and Show Racism The Red Card have had a hugely positive effect, but the impact of racial allegations in such a multicultural league and society is damaging. The Premier League is a worldwide brand and can not be seen to be weak in the manner it deals with serious accusations. However, it must also make sure that the conclusions reached are correct. If confusion has brought about allegation, the FA must be clear in their explanations, offering transparency whilst making a clear statement that this isn't a toleration of racial abuse.
This decade is vitally important in the eradication of racism from football worldwide. Russia, the host nation for the 2018 World Cup, was shamed in June when a banana was thrown at Anzhi Makhachkala's Roberto Carlos. With African nations acting as a vital component in the World Cup, the Russian FA have seven years to address their greatest issue. If they fail, they will be shamed on the biggest stage possible.
In Britain, we are winning the battle against racism in football. However, while there are still accusations, our governing bodies must remain vigilant. We have made great strides in recent times and the FA must be careful not undermine this progress with secretive or inconclusive investigations. If these are cases of racism, the strongest punishments must be enforced. If the players accused are innocent, fans of all clubs should breath a sigh of relief in the knowledge that football remains united against racism.