This weekend you’ll see lots of promotion are the scheme ‘show racism the red card’, and it’s not just a knee-jerk reaction to what happened in Bulgaria. Sadly, with such irony, it was planned nationally well ahead of the scenes in the week.
Racism is an emotive subject, it’s something that has no place in our society, but is still there, festering away under the surface. I know, I’ve seen it away at Crewe in 2017/18 and away at Cambridge last season. Those who say Lincoln City don’t have a problem with racism are right and wrong; we don’t have a problem that is specific to us, but we do harbour the odd individual who are part of the wider problem that is blighting football.
It’s easy to see the black hood, thugs making monkey chants and offensive banners in Bulgaria and condemn them as a backward country, but it happens here. As mentioned, I saw and heard it on more than one occasion away at Cambridge and I didn’t report it. Why? Fear. It’s easy to talk about being brave, not so easy to actually do it.
If you’re reading this thinking ‘I’ve never heard or seen anything at Sincil Bank’, you’re one of the lucky ones. I haven’t at our home ground, but I’m assured by people it happens. It’s often isolated, on some occasions it’s even challenged I’m told, but that doesn’t mask the fact it happens. You might be like me, reading this knowing you’ve heard or seen something and you didn’t speak up for fear of confrontation, or you didn’t tell a steward for fear of being a grass. It sounds ridiculous, but you sit in the same seat most weeks, as do those around you and without rock-solid proof, what happens? Next week you’re back in your seat with a sick feeling in your stomach as the person you stood up to enters the ground knowing who you are.
We might not have a problem with widespread racism, but if one person thinks it’s okay to come into our ground and racially abuse a player, then we do have a problem. Every club in the Football League has a problem, until each and every single person who thinks this behaviour is acceptable realises it isn’t. However, the only way we’re going to combat this is by reporting what we see and hear.
That’s why I’ve chosen to push the club’s safe text number. I know it’s been the cause of revulsion in the past, people saying it’s wrong to grass on your own and all that, but in this instance, I don’t believe it is. We all saw the condemnation Bulgaria received this week because of their ‘fans’ actions, but just because it was a group and it was visibly doesn’t make it any worse than one person shouting out one comment at Sincil Bank. It’s exactly the same.
I implore you, if you see or hear anything at all that constitutes racist behaviour tomorrow night, report it using the number. Text what you heard and your seat number to the mobile number below. Any other details you can add, do so. It’s anonymous and you won’t have the comeback, just slide your phone out of your pocket, let the club know what’s happening and where and put it back in. If three or four people in the same area do the same then we’re moving forward and can identify those responsible.
You can use it away as well, the club will still be able to act on what information they get. I didn’t have this number at Cambridge and Crewe but if I had, maybe the person I heard would have been dealt with. Maybe he has, I don’t know, but the point is that it would have been reported there and then, at a time when it can be acted upon.
Grassing on your own isn’t the issue here, ridding our club of an archaic and unacceptable form of abuse is. I’ve had conversations with people I know before about this, people who claim they’re not racist but don’t like Muslims, or people who think calling a Frenchman a ‘frog’ is different to making monkey chants, but it’s really not. I learnt; I once hurled abuse at a Rochdale player called Curier for being French and got told it was racist at the time. I never considered that to be racist but here I am 15 years later with a much firmer understanding of the problem.
It’s not acceptable and it has to stop. If you don’t like it then I’m sorry but you’re wrong.
Add this number to your phone now. Put it under ‘safe text line’, or if you’re scared people might look over your shoulder at the game, save it as ‘Stacey’ so it looks like a normal contact. Just do it and together we can ensure tomorrow night is not just a one-off event to promote the eradication of racism, but the beginning of the end for these comments at Sincil Bank and amongst our fans on their travels too.