England star: We will walk off over racist abuse
Is this the right thing to do? England footballer Tammy Abraham has said that the whole squad may walk off the pitch if they hear any form of racist abuse during their Euro 2020 qualifiers.
Tammy Abraham has just been promoted to the England senior team — and he is already making his mark.
As England gears up for its Euro 2020 qualifying matches against the Czech Republic tomorrow and Bulgaria on Monday, Abraham says that the team will walk off the field and refuse to return if the English players hear any racist abuse from fans.
“If it happens to one of us, it happens to all of us,” said the 22-year-old rising star. “We don’t stand for it and we want the world to see that.”
Racist incidents at football matches have soared by 43% since the 2017-2018 season. It is the seventh year running that reported incidents have climbed, as racism returns to levels not seen in the sport since the 1970s and 1980s.
On Monday, England will step out onto the pitch in Sofia to take on Bulgaria on its home turf. But instead of the usual roars and chants, one side of the stands will be deathly silent.
The stadium has been partially closed by UEFA after fans spouted racist abuse at two matches against Kosovo and the Czech Republic in June.
Currently, UEFA has a three-step protocol to deal with crowd racism. First, there will be tannoy announcements in the stadium, then the match may be stopped for five to 10 minutes. If that fails, only then may the referee abandon the game.
But for Abraham, who received racist abuse after missing a penalty for Chelsea in August, the policy is simply not good enough. “One time, twice, three times — it gives silly people excuses,” he said.
English clubs are under pressure too.
Earlier this year, Abraham’s home club Chelsea banned six fans — one of them for life — for racially abusing Raheem Stirling. The England striker player has been widely praised for his own campaign to rid the sport of racism once and for all.
And just this week, Aston Villa FC said it was “disgusted” with fans who sang racist songs at their own players. The media will be watching closely to see what action is taken.
Whether England has to walk off the field this week or not, the players have set down a line: discrimination means no football.
“It would make an arresting image, a message reverberating around the world, front-page splashes, representatives of the oldest footballing nation in the world calling time on the recidivists,” wrote The Times’s sports writer Henry Winter yesterday.
But is it the right thing to do?
End of the line
No, says former England goalkeeper David James, who has himself faced plenty of racist abuse. The best approach is to play on. “Providing there is no physical danger to players, the best way they can answer abuse is by playing the best they can, winning the game, walking off the pitch at the end of 90 minutes and putting in a complaint.”
Yes, says Henry Winter. The players are right. “Listening to Tammy Abraham talking so lucidly after training yesterday, it was very clear that the players had had enough, that they did not trust match officials to react strongly and swiftly enough, that they believe the authorities do not confront the bigots with the required vigour. Enough is enough.”
- Should England players stop the match if they see racism?
- Why is racism in football on the rise?
- Summarise Tammy Abraham’s life and achievements in five sentences.
- Imagine that England had walked off the pitch mid-way through their game with Montenegro (see Q&A). Write a one-page news report about what happened and what you think the immediate consequences would have been.
Some People Say...
“If you want to know if racism is a problem in your country, you might not want to ask white people.”Tim Wise, US anti-racism campaigner
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- In April, England’s Danny Rose, Callum Hudson Odoi and Raheem Stirling were targeted by racist chants at Montenegro’s stadium in Podgorica. Rose was not impressed with UEFA’s decision to fine Montenegro €20,000 (£18,000) and force them to play their next game behind closed doors, saying that he was “lost for words” at the leniency. Rose has previously said that he “can’t wait to see the back of football” due to his experiences of repeated racism.
- What do we not know?
- If racism in football will get kicked out. Clubs and authorities are coming under pressure to implement more serious punishments. In Italy, where there are many problems with racist and far-right fans, Roma has just issued a lifetime ban to a fan who racially abused defender Juan Jesus on Instagram.
- Euro 2020
- The 2020 UEFA European Football Championship. Twenty-four national teams will compete in the tournament, which is being held all across the continent. It is held every four years, between World Cups.
- According to the latest figures from Kick It Out, an organisation fighting racism in football.
- 1970s and 1980s
- “The bad old days are back!” declared retired black footballer Ian Wright earlier this year. Former footballer John Barnes has also spoken out about the racism he received throughout his career.
- The capital of Bulgaria.
- The Union of European Football Associations, which regulates football across Europe. It is one of six continental authorities across the globe.
- The game in question was the Super Cup final against Liverpool.
- Sterling has said that newspaper articles about black players “help fuel racism and aggressive behaviour”.
- A repeat offender.