Former Hibs midfielder Marvin Bartley on 'heartbreaking' racism and why players are prepared to walk off
Players have taken a stand and they have taken a knee but now they look set to take matters into their own hands in an attempt to force football authorities to do the right thing in the battle against racism.
The unacceptable abuse was highlighted again during and after Rangers’ Europa League clash with Slavia Prague, prompting an angry response from people who have decided enough is enough.
"We've had discussions over the past 24 hours about whether players should walk off the pitch,” explained Livingston captain Marvin Bartley. “Because, if the game is on TV, you will get broadcasters asking why the game isn't going ahead anymore and then the authorities will do something because when it comes to finances, things happen. So that's the next step.
"The next time it happens, players will walk off the pitch and let's see how good a game it is when there is only one team playing. If they want to hand out huge fines for teams walking off then that tells you all you need to know. The ball's in their court."
The latest backlash comes after Rangers’ Glen Kamara was left visibly distressed by rival Ondrej Kudela’s comments during the Uefa competition on Thursday night and other black players were bombarded with disgusting racist messages on social media.
"People abusing others because of the colour of their skin. It's the hardest thing to have to deal with,” added Bartley. “Whatever rage you have ever felt in your life, times that by 100 because when you hear it or see it happening to other people, it's heartbreaking. What happened the other day has hit me hard.”
Dundee United and Motherwell players chose to take a pre-match stand against racism on Saturday, forgoing the opportunity to ‘take a knee’ on the basis they feel that gesture has lost its impact.
“Personally, I will always take the knee as long as I am allowed to,” said Bartley, stating that racism remains a “huge, huge problem”.
"But if they have a better way of doing something that will make a difference then great. What we can't do is just go on as normal. Something has to change because it's getting more heartbreaking every time something like this happens.”
Coming down harder on the transgressors is the next necessary step, according to those who want to see it eradicated from the game, and wider society.
"The solution is heavy fines and long bans. When players or sections of the crowd start racially abusing someone, you have to start hitting them financially.
"Give them a year's ban. If that player can't feed his family and can't earn a living then they would soon think about it.
"I have spoken to a lot of players over the last 24 hours from the English Premier League to players here. Black or white, we've all had enough and something needs to change.
"You saw what happened at the Rangers game. Do I have confidence in [the authorities] stepping in and doing something...no I don't.
"Am I surprised that black players are getting abused online when they make a mistake? No. And that's where we are. It's 2021 and I'm not surprised by it and that's the most disappointing thing. It's becoming more heartbreaking the more I see it.”