London (AFP) - Raheem Sterling has called for clubs whose fans racially abuse players to be hit with a nine-point penalty, saying current punishments meant the issue was "nowhere near being sorted" by football authorities.
The Manchester City forward has become increasingly outspoken on racism in football, having received abuse on the pitch while playing for both his club and on England duty.
Recently, he cupped his hans to his ears in response to derogatory chants from Montenegro fans while playing for England last month.
Now Sterling has become one of the signatories to a manifesto published in Tuesday's edition of Britain's The Times newspaper calling for more black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in positions of power within football, more severe punishments for racist abuse and greater action by social media organisations, sponsors and traditional media.
"When I was a boy growing up in London, going to school and playing football, I didn't know what racist abuse was because I never suffered any," Sterling wrote in The Times.
"So it seems crazy that, in 2019, I feel the need to write a piece in a newspaper calling for radical changes to the game that I love.
"But I do because the racism problem in football is so bad, runs so deep and is nowhere near being sorted."
He added: "You will all have read about the various high-profile racist incidents in recent months: the abuse I received playing for Manchester City away to Chelsea; the booing that the black England players were subjected to in Montenegro; the nastiness that Moise Kean of Juventus endured in Italy and the endless insults thrown at players on social media.
"But that is sadly just the tip of the iceberg. Up and down the game, across the world, black and Asian players, fans and coaches are subjected to racism. Every day, from park football to the Champions League.
"In my opinion, the people who run the game are doing nowhere near enough to solve the problem. And that's not good enough."
- 'Fines do no damage' -
Sterling said punishment for racist abuse should start with an automatic nine-point deduction for clubs and three games behind closed doors rather than the current system of fines, which he said were an insufficient deterrent.
"It sounds harsh, but which fan will risk racist behaviour if it might relegate their team or ruin their title bid?
"Small fines do no damage to clubs and countries, but one group of people who do have the money to make them take notice are sponsors. The next time that a club or governing body fails to act appropriately against racism, I would love to see that company pull its money out and make a moral stand.
"I don't know how long it will take for things to change but we have to start now. I don't want the next generation of black players to have to put up with this evil."