England boss Gareth Southgate has revealed his players won’t walk off the pitch should they be targeted by racist abuse in the future.
Following the same stance Raheem Sterling took to the issue when discussing the matter back in April following the racist abuse Three Lions stars including Danny Rose and Callum Hudson-Odoi faced from Montenegro fans during a European Championship qualifier, Southgate has said the England side aren’t prepared to walk off in the event of future racist abuse.
“In terms of walking off the pitch, that isn’t something they (the players) are all on board with,” Southgate told Sky Sports.
Southgate continued to speak at length about the issue, “In fact, none of the current team have expressed that as a preference. The bit that isn’t clear if we did that – apart from the question of would we be penalised? – it’s not clear to me what would happen then. It would be a statement, but what would that lead to?
“They’re clear that they don’t want the story at the end to be about them as individuals, they want football to be the story. But they’ve also had an opportunity since then to speak and have an impact. In Montenegro in particular, from our perspective we only picked it up in the last five minutes of the game, so there’s a difference between that and if things happened earlier in the game.”
“We’ve discussed ways that we can make the players more comfortable or that we can manage if they heard things earlier in the game. How would we report those more easily? We’ve encouraged them to speak up when it happens.”
“It is hypothetical at the moment, because we are not in that situation. But the subject is there. Everybody is aware. I don’t think we surely need any more symbolic statements that this is unacceptable.”
“It is totally unacceptable, but I am still not clear. What change will that enforce? Somehow we have to enforce that change and education on society and I think we must continue to strive to do that. But I know there is a wide variation of opinions of people that this is the right thing and people who are less sure. My players’ feeling is the most important thing for me.
“There are lots of statements that have been made and haven’t led to change and reform. For me, the broader discussion of education around racism is key. I think a lot of our players and former players have spoken brilliantly about that in recent months.”
More hardline action critically needs to be taken against racism in the international football community, however, particularly in light of the recent news that Cagliari are to face no punishment after their racist abuse towards Juventus forward Moise Kean.