It is time for soccer clubs and leagues around the world to take real action against racism

As protests against police brutality continue on a global scale, soccer teams and leagues from around the world have been united in their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

In Germany, punishments for political gestures have been waived in support of George Floyd, and both teams and match officials were seen taking a knee this past weekend.

It is truly encouraging to see the sport unite behind the cause in an effort to bring about real change.

But for that change to happen, it takes more than gestures and hashtags—real action must be taken.

Soccer has been plagued by racism for decades—particularly in Europe—and there have been several high profile cases of racist behavior this season alone.

Chelsea’s Anthony Ruddier was subject to abuse at Tottenham in December, and later declared that “racism has won”.

In Italy, Cagliari fans escaped any kind of sanction for abuse of Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku, while the Italian FA subsequently showed an incredibly tone deaf way of countering racism.

This week, Raheem Sterling compared fighting the pandemic to fighting the disease of racism. In both cases, real action must be taken.

UEFA has a long-standing anti-racism campaign, England’s ‘Kick It Out’ campaign does much for community education and clubs have acted to ban fans who are found guilty of abuse.

But that’s not enough—clubs and leagues must now commit to measures that bring about change.

Minorities must be given the chances and opportunities to succeed. Clubs must do better to educate their players and their communities—Sterling, for example, has suggested player-led anti-racism task forces.

And both clubs and league must get serious with the punishments they give out.

The $83,000 fine that the Bulgarian FA were handed for racism in a game against England should be 10 or 20 times higher.

And clubs whose players or fans engage in racist behavior should face points deductions or competition eliminations.

The words offered by soccer have been very valuable at this time, but they absolutely must be followed up with meaningful action that changes behaviors.

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