FOOTBALL is the platform. Football is not the problem. Football won’t be the panacea.

The issue of racism in the game has not gone away. Depressingly, it may never go away. That doesn’t make football wholly accountable, though.

As it stands, the punishments do not fit the crimes and harsher sentences for players who abuse their fellow professionals would be a step towards eradicating a scourge from the sport.

The ban handed to Ondrej Kudela for the appalling language used towards Glen Kamara was nowhere near strong enough and it didn’t provide a deterrent for those who would consider following his horrid example in the future.

Until governing bodies – from the Scottish FA to UEFA and FIFA – are able and willing to hand out lengthy suspensions and sizeable fines for incidents of racism, or any other form of abuse, then players won’t have to think twice about opening their mouths and letting their hatred spew out on the park.

It has been heartening, then, to read the words of David McCardle, the SFA diversity and inclusion manager, in these pages over the last two days as he has laid out changes to the Hampden rulebook and detailed their action plan to tackle discrimination of all forms.

The Kamara incident at Ibrox earlier this year should have been the line in the sand moment for European football. The SFA are, at least, trying to do their best.

“The ban for somebody who uses homophobic or racist abuse on the football pitch in the senior levels of the game is going to increase quite significantly through that,” McCardle told Herald and Times Sport on Wednesday.

“We have basically said the ban for somebody who uses racist or homophobic language will be a minimum of 10 games, unless there are vast mitigating circumstances. But it is up to a year.

“Across the whole of Europe, that is one of the strictest penalties. It is massive. It sets the tone for what we believe in Scottish football.”

If the Hampden board can back up their words with actions, then it should go some way to helping reduce the number of discriminatory incidents on the pitch.

The same would be the case if UEFA or FIFA proved that they were serious enough about the issue to ramp up the punishments available and the penalties handed out for those who breach their sporting rules and cross the line of what is acceptable on a human level.

And that is ultimately the basis for all the discussions, the summits and the public pronouncements. This is a societal problem that football has been enlisted to help to solve.

The game provides those with extreme views and long-standing prejudices a platform upon which to promote their bile but that doesn’t mean that clubs or associations can necessarily be held accountable for the actions of those who attach themselves to their colours.

The abuse directed towards Kamara in Prague last week shows how far Czech society has to go in its battle with racism. Given some of the statements made by Sparta and others since, it can be questioned just how seriously they are treating the matter.

If such a sizeable percentage of a 10,000 crowd of schoolchildren see fit to boo and jeer Kamara because he was the victim of abuse, that says more about the population of Prague than it does about football.

Kamara and Rangers had nothing to do with Sparta until they set foot on the pitch at the Stadion Letna but their intense rivalry with Slavia was put to one side as the home support put themselves firmly in the Kudela camp.

That mindset, that level of discrimination, is not developed inside a stadium. It is formed and honed, and perhaps encouraged, at home and in family and friend circles.

Football can, and should, lead the way in terms of messaging and every campaign is a worthwhile one. But what can the game really do if such hatred is being condoned all around the next generation?

A racist is a racist, regardless of whether they are inside a stadium, at work or at home. That point is at the centre of the issue.

Shutting the stands will remove the problem from public view, but it won’t solve the ills of society and ultimately eradicate racism.

Fines, bans or stadium closures act as a deterrent and allow the game to say it is doing its bit in the fight. There is only so much responsibility it can shoulder, though.

Clubs, managers and players should continue to beat the drum and the strength of character that black players show to repeatedly deal with and highlight the abuse they receive is admirable.

It cannot be said that their efforts are going to waste and they can make a difference, but there is only so much that football, even the most famous names and most powerful powerbrokers in the game, can really do to effect change in society.

The first incident with Kamara proved that football has an problem that must be tackled and the way in which to do that is clear.

The second showed that racism is bigger than the game, though, and solving those societal issues is about education rather than stadium closures or fines.

The fight goes on. Football will play a part, but some problems are bigger than the game as cities, countries and continents are forced to accept responsibility for their own failings.


THERE are few things that Scottish football does better than create a furore out of nothing and the faux outrage over Ryan Porteous affair was another classic of the genre.

It was a red card all day long. Referee Nick Walsh deemed it so, Hibernian boss Jack Ross didn’t exactly argue vociferously against it and Steven Gerrard was scathing in his condemnation of a challenge that he deemed a ‘leg-breaker’.

There was no conspiracy and no miscarriage of justice but the fact that Rangers benefitted, and went on to win at Ibrox, sparked the wearying barrage of accusations and theories online. That is where such lunacy thrives and where it should remain.

Hibernian chanced their arm with their appeal and rightly lost and that should be the end of the matter. Until next time Rangers get a decision in their favour, of course.