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Birmingham City players Troy Deeney and Neil Etheridge want more to be done to tackle racism in football | Football News


Birmingham players Troy Deeney and Neil Etheridge have called for more to be done around racism in football, with the striker comparing the culture inside grounds to the film ‘The Purge’.

Deeney was racially abused by one of Birmingham’s own supporters last month, while goalkeeper Etheridge also experienced racism from the stands during a recent game against Blackburn.

The pair sat down with Sky Sports News’ Miriam Walker-Khan to discuss the recent incidents and why harsher punishments are needed for perpetrators.

Deeney said that when fans get together inside stadia, they feel like they can do whatever they want – similar to ‘The Purge’, a movie in which people are able to commit crimes for a 12-hour period without being punished.

“I think the reason why it’s so important and the reason that we teamed up in terms of what we’re trying to do to shed light, it’s not a black issue, it’s not an Asian issue – it’s an issue of discrimination across the board,” Deeney explained to Sky Sports News.

“We try to marginalise it too. Talking about race, everyone thinks it’s just happening to black players, but it’s not. It’s happening to people of different origins, happening with women in the workplace, all of these different things.

“But it’s like we try and separate loads and little things so then we actually never tackle the root cause. So the reason we feel so powerful about this is because if we come together and make the same noises now more people are involved, more eyes and ears about it and also different ethnicities are being registered just as much.

Troy Deeney
Troy Deeney has previously spoken out on racism within football

“We [Deeney and Etheridge] have spoken about it personally, but the culture of football at the moment, or not at the moment, since maybe the 70s, has been one of ‘The Purge’.

“You come into a football ground, all societal rules are out the window, we can say what we want, we can do what we want because it happened at the football.

“But then you flip it and a footballer’s responsibility is now to be a role model, to help out charities, to be the best of the best, and by the way, doing it in an environment where everybody else doesn’t have to act with any consequences towards you or your family. I don’t know any other line of work where that happens.”

Deeney reiterated his point on marginalisation when also discussing online abuse, believing many perceive racial discrimination as only occurring on social media platforms, rather than in the stands.

Gareth Southgate embraces Bukayo Saka after England's Euro 2020 final defeat
Bukayo Saka was one of the players to receive racist abuse online after England’s Euro 2020 final defeat

He added: “Ever since the George Floyd situation and the amount of online abuse at the three lads got from England at the Euros [Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were racially abused online after missing penalties in the Euro 2020 final], we all seem to think it’s online abuse now.

“We’ve again marginalised it – it only happens there so these players should just turn off the notifications. It’s always the individual that should be do something, not the person or the people that have decided they’re going to be abusive or whatever.

“Again, where’s the accountability on the other person? Apparently, footballers are all highly overpaid or uneducated and silly role models? Our kids shouldn’t be looking at footballers.

“On the flip side to that, we should be role models and we should take the higher level of moral standpoint and the person who’s been immature, being uneducated or being foul at times is fine because that person works a normal job and that person is more relatable. It’s so backwards and the mentality in this country has to change.”

Neil Etheridge
Neil Etheridge recently experienced racism from the stands while playing for Birmigham

Etheridge – who is British Filipino – is also keen to shine a light of racism towards a broad spectrum of ethnicities.

He added: “We’re now at a stage where it [reporting racism in football] is a long process. It’s not easy just stopping a game of football.

“My incident played out to the rulebook, basically, and the more frustrating thing for me after was how many times can we have this conversation or is it going to be brushed under the carpet. That’s the seriousness of this topic.

“When Troy and I spoke, he’s been doing a lot for black and mixed-raced players. He said ‘how many times has it happened to an Asian player or half-Asian player?’. I don’t even remember the last time if there has been, it’s not recent, but it’s now educating people on all sorts of racism, not just certain matters of it.”

‘We need guidelines on racism and to stick to them’

Deeney and Etheridge both called for better rules and guidelines on racism in football, and proper implementation. They believe if one person is penalised for doing so, it may help to deter others.

Etheridge said: “If people know the punishment, you know what you’re getting yourself in to, but if you’re going say something and roll the dice, you can get away of it. And then all of a sudden, it goes around that part of the stadium and that part of the fan base.

Deeney: There is no deterrent for racism in football

“There is no deterrent for being racist online, there is no deterrent for being racist inside the stadium and there’s no deterrent for being racist on a football pitch.

“It is all ‘go to the referee, report it and we’ll figure it out after’. It’s all wishy washy and there’s no clear guidelines about what it is if you decide to roll the dice.”

“The next person might do it until there’s something in the written rulebook of ‘this is what’s going to happen’, then people know exactly what the punishment is going to be if they do it and get caught doing it. I think it will clamp it down massively.”

Deeney also pointed to recent incidents involving fans on the pitch, which while comes with a hefty fine, is often not implemented. He describes the current guidelines around racism as ‘wishy washy’.

“We’re so reactive within football, it’s a joke. In so many other fields we’re proactive, we’re ahead, we’re pushing it and that’s why we sound so passionate,” he said.

“But why do we always have to get to the worst case? We’ve had it here at Birmingham where a fan ran on the pitch and hit Jack Grealish. Everyone said ‘that’s the worst thing that could happen’. What’s actually changed has stopped people getting on football pitches.

“We’re not saying these are easy fixes but what does it need to be? We had a spate of it last year with how many people went on the pitch. People said ‘it’s a real bad thing, we can’t have people on the pitch’. But nothing has changed to stop it. So, if you’re a fan and you’re going to do it, what’s going to happen? Nothing is the answer.

“You see on the side of the turnstiles, if you encroach on the pitch, it will be a £5,000 fine. How many people have ever been hit with a £5,000 fine that we’ve heard of? What I’m saying is get a rule, get a guideline, stick to it.

“We live in a world where there is an energy crisis and cost of living has gone through the roof. You hit one person with a fine just for that kind of incident and I guarantee you the next 20 people who heard about it go ‘I can’t afford that’.

“So, it’s a deterrent, but there is no deterrent for being racist online, there is no deterrent for being racist inside the stadium and there’s no deterrent for being racist on a football pitch.

“It is all ‘go to the referee, report it and we’ll figure it out after’. It’s all wishy washy and there’s no clear guidelines about what it is if you decide to roll the dice.”

Troy Deeney and Neil Etheridge sat down with Sky Sports' News Miriam Walker-Khan to discuss racism in football after recent incidents involving the Birmingham players
Troy Deeney and Neil Etheridge sat down with Sky Sports’ News Miriam Walker-Khan to discuss racism in football after recent incidents involving the Birmingham players

Etheridge also concludes that his recent experience with racism inside a football ground has spurred him on further to advocate for harsher punishments.

“I would do nothing different. I keep exactly the same as what I did, but it probably proved to me even more that more noise needs to be made about it and more punishments, harsher punishments need to be made about this situation.

“Things need to be set out in black and white – this is what happens if you know racial abuse happens to any of the players. And eventually, what will happen is that players will rally together, even harder, even stronger. It’s slowly starting to happen a little bit more, as you can tell.”

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