Once again football has been dominated by one issue this last week and indeed over the weekend.
No it's not the fact that a toddler's got more chance of finishing a bowl of soup with a plastic fork than Luis Suarez has of finishing a decent chance. It's not even the question as to why the Wayne Rooney who plays for Manchester United turns out wearing normal football boots, whereas the one in the England shirt wears boots made out of a fluffy Victoria sponge. No, it's not even the fact that Harry Redknapp continues to make the rest of the pundits on Match of the Day look like chumps of the highest order.
No, it's race. And racism. And what to do about it.
Jason Roberts sounded like a lone voice in the wilderness when he said he'd not wear his 'Kick It Out' t-shirt on Saturday. Certainly Sir Alex Ferguson seemed to think so, even snidely coupling Roberts's standpoint with his role as a TV pundit. So when Rio Ferdinand avoided putting one on too, the Govan Beetroot's face grew more purply than ever.
Fortunately, the issue has been sorted at United, not least because the rest of football's top managers rather thought it was down to the individual players to decide whether they wanted to wear the t-shirt or not, what with them being grown-ups and all. (I still wonder whether the adults at Liverpool Football Club really wanted to wear those Suarez supporting t-shirts but that's for them, too, I guess).
Mark Hughes said that it's hard to eradicate racism from the game entirely but "Any campaign that looks to address an ill in our game and in society needs to be
supported irrespective of the fact of whether they are doing enough or not."
Well yes and no, Sparky. I mean I'm sure Nick Griffin thinks that he is addressing a lot of ills in our society but I don't think I'm going to signing up for his solution.
It looks like Roberts, Ferdinand et al are disassociating themselves from a campaign that almost every other footballer has signed up to and undermining the consensus. So the question is 'Why?'
The amount of money the Kick It Out campaign receives would make a football agent blush. In 2010-11, it was less than half a million pounds, or 2 weeks of Carlos Tevez's wages. Or the daily rate for John Terry's lawyers. Or the amount of cash the latest posh twats on Grand Designs have found down the back of their Chesterfield sofa to spend on a new build in the shape of an oyster-shell on the harbour-front at Whitstable or some such bloody place. Yawn. It is, as the modern parlance might have it, fuck-all.
Furthermore, Kick It Out hasn't played an enormous role in the recent issues surrounding the Uruguayan tumbler and the Chelsea skipper - and yes, despite everything, Terry remains the club captain. That's just embarrassing. That might have something to do with why some black players don't think the race issue is being addressed properly.
In a statement Kick It Out states that: Kick It Out said it "works in partnership with the game's governing bodies"
and added: "We are not a decision-making organisation with power and resource as
some people think, and can only work effectively in the context of these
In other words, we're not up to much really. We can't do anything. We do go round chatting to people and reminding them not to be horrible to each other. But we don't make the decisions. And frankly if I was a black player I'd start to wonder what the point of the whole thing was.
It's much like Sepp Blatter, a man who so patently treats the game with contempt, urging football to get behind this Respect campaign. It takes a lot more than a few handshakes and some nice tee-shirts to imbue respect and anti-racism.
We might start by banning Serbia from international competition until it sorts its scumbags out. Sinisa Mihajlovic, the current national manager, is a cast-iron racist. Unsurprisingly he was much-loved at Lazio, whose fan base loves a monkey chant and yet is ironically unevolved itself. There's a decent column on Mihajlovic here: http://www.heraldscotland.com/sport/football/sinisa-mihajlovic-a-history-of-violence.18786287
He's more complicated than he seems, and Vieira, for all his high-mindedness, was just as guilty of racism during a spat with the Serb, but nevertheless there's no debating the accusation. (Yes he was very good at free kicks too but then Mussolini made the trains run on time, Enoch Powell had a way with words and Josef Goebbels simply loved his kitten.)
And it wasn't very long ago that black Britons were subject to the usual crowd hoots in Spain and that led to the sort of smack on the hand that wouldn't make a three-year-old wince. In other words there's a history of quiet toleration around such issues.
On the one hand Kick It Out and Respect parade around wearing the badges of genuine concern but when an issue has to be tackled head-on the FA or UEFA or FIFA are less Lee Cattermole and more Daniel Sturridge. At their worst, they are Lip Service in action.
Now three-quarters of the funding for Kick It Out comes from the FA, the Premier League and the Professinal Footballers' Association. It is by definition dependent. And it's hard for a dependent organisation to criticise those on which it depends. (Although my kids don't seem to have any bother having a pop at us, the ungrateful beggars). Many would like Kick It Out to be independent.
There's a way this can be done but it might mean that footballers give up a little more of their paltry weekly wages to fund it. Perhaps 1% to get it up and running. They could certainly afford it in these austere times and it would certainly give the campaign fresh impetus and single-mindedness. Maybe clubs could offer up a proportion of their gate receipts, too, if they really want to help.
Let's be clear, racism in British football is nowhere near the issue it was when Clyde Best was enduring obscene chanting, not least from the terraces at Ayresome Park. Old 'Arry was right about that on Match of the Day. But that's still no reason not to stamp it our where you find it.
And if Kick it Out isn't helping then what is the point of it?