Leeds United star Patrick Bamford's words applauded by Premier League bosses but all of football should have grimaced
“It’s amazing the amount of uproar that comes in to the game when somebody’s pockets are getting hurt, it’s a shame it’s not like that with other things that are going on at the minute, like racism.”
Patrick Bamford had a smile on his face when he delivered words that should have put a grimace on the face of modern football.
The point the Leeds United striker made, in the midst of a remarkable few days dominated by the quickly-foiled European Super League plans, was a timely reminder for everyone to check themselves. It was a point applauded by David Moyes, Graham Potter and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
What became clear last week was that a threat to the game, like the breakaway project put together by 12 big, cash-hungry clubs, was not going to be tolerated as fans gathered outside grounds, produced banners and chanted their opposition.
UEFA came out swinging, president Alexander Ceferin branding the brains behind the doomed ESL operation as ‘snakes’.
“I have seen many things in my life but never this,” he said.
“Obviously, greed is so strong that all the human values evaporate. Everything is gone with some people. We might be naive in not knowing we have snakes close to us. Now we do. There will be legal action soon.”
The sanctions he threatened were severe – international tournament bans for players involved in the ESL and UEFA competition bans for their clubs.
Ceferin made himself abundantly clear – you cannot come for our Champions League. What about our black players, though?
When questioned about the punishment for racism in the game by Darren Lewis of The Mirror, the UEFA president was not so clear and concise.
“The sanctions for racism, for example, can be the same, we can forbid them to play in our competitions, we can do it,” he said.
“We are ready to do any sanction and you know well that we discussed it many times. We are committed to do it. I think we are improving. It’s not an easy fight but we will do whatever we can. We don’t want racism in football, sexism, homophobia and we will fiercely fight it.”
“We can do it,” he said. So why haven’t they? Why don’t they?
As his answer meandered into the territory of needing help from governments and competent parents, a can could be heard rattling some way down the road.
Does football hate racism as much as it hates the thought of a European Super League?
When Rangers player Glen Kamara was found to have been racially abused by Slavia Prague’s Ondrej Kudela, a 10-game ban was the result. “The barest minimum penalty,” said Kamara’s lawyer Aamer Anwar, that made a “mockery of UEFA’s claims on taking racism seriously.”
Football has a long way to go to prove it carries the same energy for battling racism as it does for quashing the get-richer-quick schemes of big clubs.
On the pitch, the onus is on the game’s authorities to introduce meaningful bans for discrimination and abuse, off the pitch the game has a responsibility to do whatever it can to stamp out abuse of any kind.
A boycott of social media for one weekend, even if all of English football partakes, is not enough and it’s not an answer. It won’t miraculously cure racists and purify the online world.
But it is, at least, something. A start. A shot across the bows of social media firms who profit from the presence of our clubs and our players on their platforms.
Engagement and likes are big business but football can and should take its ball home if social media companies won’t play their part. Football as a whole should bring as much pressure as it can muster to force Facebook and Twitter to do much, much more to prevent players like former Leeds man Kemar Roofe from receiving dozens and dozens of racist insults through his social media accounts.
Recently, as club after club has spoken out on behalf of its players over instances of abuse, the vile tide flowing from anonymous accounts has felt relentless. Accounts that require little to no identity validation are simply not accountable. There is no room for racism in the game, online or in society.
This has to be the message hammered home by English football this weekend and beyond.
A few days without goal tweets, gifs and jokes aimed at our rivals is the very least we can do.
What is really needed is uproar. Let this boycott become the silence before a storm.