English forced to face uncomfortable home truths as 13-year-old comes under investigation

By Andrew Warshaw

December 10 – Quick to point the finger at football-fuelled racism elsewhere in Europe, the English game is going through a period of intense soul-searching following a spate of  instances over the weekend from the Premier League to the fourth tier, one of the alleged culprits being as young as 13 years old.

Much has been made, and rightly so, of the abuse meted out by a Manchester City fan to United’s Brazilian forward Fred in the Manchester derby at the weekend but the Etihad stadium wasn’t the only venue when racism reared its ugly head.

A 13-year-old Burnley fan is being investigated by police for making an alleged racist gesture to Tottenham forward Son Heung-min on Saturday. The teenager was ejected from the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium during the Premier League match between the sides.

Burnley said it would be contacting the teenager and his family with a view to an “enforced educational programme”, run in conjunction with football’s anti-discrimination campaign Kick It Out and Burnley’s community programme.

On Monday it was announced, too, that two Wolverhampton Wanderers  supporters had been arrested on suspicion of homophobic abuse during Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Brighton – on the very weekend of a nationwide campaign for LGBT inclusion in sport.

Then we had an incident at Everton who confirmed  they were investigating reports of homophobic chanting aimed at Chelsea supporters.

Down in league two, the fourth-tier  of English football, a game between Forest Green Rovers and Scunthorpe  was halted temporarily by the referee who spoke to both team managers. Forest Green said a “single fan” was being investigated for comments directed at a Scunthorpe player

Piara Powar, executive director of Fare network, which monitors discrimination across European football, described the current situation as “a contagion”.

“This is happening everywhere unquestionably because of a few things. One of those is mimicry – people are seeing others doing it and they think that they can follow and it’s legitimate to do it,” he said.

Former England international Gary Neville, for years a respected football pundit, told Sky that the resurgence of football-related racism was in part due to British prime minister Boris Johnson’s rhetoric on immigration during the current election campaign.

“You are watching the prime minister’s debate where he is talking about migration to this country and people having to have certain levels. It fuels it all the time,” Neville said. “It has got worse over the last few years in this country and not just in football.”

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