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KICK IT OUT has slammed grassroots football authorities for punishing the victims of racial abuse after a number of clubs were fined for standing up to abusers.
The unsettling rise in racial abuse of black football players across the British football pyramids and Europe has once again left lovers of the sport asking what is the best way to eradicate the problem.
Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, who has been abused a number of times this season alone, said on Monday night that he would not walk off the pitch if he and his teammates were racially abused, adding that “to win the game would hurt [the abusers] even more. They’re only trying to get you down.”
Taking industrial action is seen by many as the next step in the battle to kick racism out of football. But just this week two separate clubs have been punished after their players were the victims of abuse.
Wythenshawe Town manager James Kinsey walked his players off the pitch on January 26 after a linesman racially abused a player and was allowed to continue officiating the game.
However, the club were dismayed on Tuesday when Kinsey was hit with a fine and suspension for taking the action, despite the Football Association finding that the charge against the referee had proved to be true.
This promoted Kick It Out to call on the FA itself and county FAs to take “decisive action” against the perpetrators and protect the game’s players.
Kick It Out said: “We are extremely concerned at the continued number of reports coming out of grassroots football, some indicating clubs have been facing fines for standing up to racist abuse received by their players.
“Football is sending out the wrong signal when bigger fines are given to the victims of abuse rather than the alleged perpetrators.
“We would support The FA reviewing their rules and sanctions in cases of discrimination.
“Racism and discrimination in professional football has rightly received significant attention this season following a number of high-profile incidents, but we must not ignore the amateur game.
“Almost two million people play FA-affiliated football on a regular basis, with a significant representation from BAME communities — but the public perception is that there is a lack of protection for BAME players within the grassroots game.
“Grassroots footballers across the country are losing patience with a system that is failing to support them.
“The FA and county FAs affirm they understand the devastating effect racist and discriminatory abuse has on its victims, but we call on them to demonstrate that with decisive action.
“That means: better training and support for referees to respond in the correct manner when an incident happens on their pitch; swifter and more transparent disciplinary processes; robust, effective sanctions, as well as a vastly expanded use of education sessions, for those found guilty of discriminatory abuse; ensuring victims of abuse are not sanctioned for making decisions to protect their personal wellbeing.
“Kick It Out will continue to support the FA and county FAs in tackling discrimination in the amateur game, whilst always remaining an advocate for the grassroots community.”
Wythenshawe’s punishment came 24 hours after Padiham FC were fined £165 for taking their players off the pitch after goalkeeper Tony Aghayere was racially abused last year.
Their opponents, Congleton Town, were fined £160, which left Padiham chairman Shaun Austin asking: “Where is the justice there?”
Kick It Out last week called for “extended stadium bans or points deductions” for teams who are found guilty of racially abusing their opponents, be it from fans or players.
But the campaigners have warned those in charge of the game that “ultimately, [if] Uefa, national football associations and referees cannot do the job of protecting players from racial abuse, there can be no complaints if they begin to take the situation into their own hands.
“Swift, decisive action against mass racist chanting must be taken now, and that means extended stadium bans or points deductions.”
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