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How should England players respond to racism in Russia?

RACIST ABUSE: The FA has produced a comprehensive list of measures they have put in place to help players

I REALLY enjoy the conversations with friends and colleagues when a new World Cup begins. I find myself talking earnestly with new found knowledge about say, Senegal's wing backs, Peru's keeper, goal celebrations from "Fortnite" and just how do you pronounce the name of Spain's manager, Julen Lopetegui?

This time it's a little different. England's young squad are travelling with a lot of goodwill but with realistic expectations from press and public alike.

It's different off the pitch as well. The hosts are Russia, a country with a history of racist incidents involving its clubs and supporters and what can best be described as a poor record on LGBT rights.

Danny Rose, England's thoughtful and impressive left back, has already told his family that he doesn't want them to come and support him leaving his Dad "Really upset. I could hear it in his voice".

The Tottenham defender says that if he experiences anything it will be far worse if his family are subjected to racist abuse or witness it.

Danny should know – playing for England Under-21s in Serbia in 2012 he was subjected to monkey chants and had stones thrown at him. He protested and was sent off. "I have no faith in the justice system so I don't let anything affect me,” Danny said.

So what should any of the players do if they do experience racist abuse while representing their country in football's greatest tournament?

The FA has produced a comprehensive list of measures they have put in place to help players – and fans.


MISTAKE: Garth Crooks says the England manager should have taken a black coach to the World Cup

It includes a player support policy, information and care for friends and families, a 24-hour support structure, and a briefing for players to remind them of the on-field procedure which is, essentially, tell the referee and point to the area of the crowd where the abuse is coming from so broadcasters can record if for future sanctions.

It stops short of allowing abused players to leave the field, which in itself is a cause for debate.
Sulley Muntari may have a view on it. The Ghanaian international was playing for Pescara in Serie A away at Cagliari last season when he was abused by a section of the Sardinian fans. He followed protocol and told the ref – and was booked after being told that he shouldn't "talk to the crowd".

Mario Balotelli experienced monkey chanting while playing in the French top flight for Nice at Dijon. He followed the protocol by telling the ref, pointed to the crowd where the abuse was coming from and was...booked. Apparently the Italian striker's gestures to the crowd were seen as "provocative".

The referee on that occasion argued that he hadn't heard the chants himself – but should that matter? Why would a player make it up?

If the referee does hear it, he will have the authority to first stop the game and request a public announcement asking for the discriminatory behaviour to stop. They can then suspend the match if it continues and ultimately abandon it, but it would take a brave official to go that far.

That said, it is a commendable and thorough list from the FA and shows they are taking the issue seriously and have prepared for every eventuality – but one thing not on the list is a BAME coach or assistant to Gareth Southgate.

Garth Crooks, who is a Kick It Out and PFA trustee, thinks that's a mistake, to say the least. "This is a monumental error of judgement from the England manager. If [Gareth Southgate] does not take a Chris Powell or a Chris Ramsey to Russia and our black players are subjected to racial abuse then it is a dereliction of his duty. They need support.”

Garth may be right, though all Gareth's coaching positions are taken, so if not a coach, an assistant? Would that help or would an appointment like that be seen as "tokenism"? It's a tough call and now an irrelevant one as the England team are now relaxing and preparing in their base in Repino for the first match against Tunisia.

We can also relax knowing that FIFA president Gianni Infantino said last year that tackling racism and homophobic abuse at this tournament was “a very high priority and we will make sure no incidents will happen”. He will guarantee this by taking a "hardline approach".

That's quite a bold statement and, of course, I hope he's right. I'd like to get back to discussing 4-2-3-1 formations or Nigeria's sought after new shirts…but I won't hold my breath just yet.

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