We must all back footballers who walk off the pitch in fight against racism

Over recent decades, while the methods of abuse may have changed, racism is still very much present in sport.

It rears its ugly head at matches across the world.

We would not stand for racism or any other form of discrimination in our workplaces, so why should our young footballers put up with it any longer?

Just last weekend, Haringey Borough players walked off the pitch during their FA Cup qualifier against Yeovil Town after goalkeeper, Douglas Pajetat, was allegedly subjected to racist abuse, ­spitting and bottle-throwing.

Sadly, it’s clear this is not a one-off.

Enough is enough.

The week before, we witnessed ­horrific racist abuse aimed at England players in their match against Bulgaria, which caused the match to be halted on two occasions.

Photos and clips followed of fans performing Nazi salutes and racist chanting continued.

It is utterly unacceptable.

Players such as Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham who speak out on this issue are an asset to our country.

The ­pressure and responsibility on their shoulders is immense as it is – and it is ­disgraceful that, in 2019, young ­players must also contend with how they react to racist abuse from the stands.

Strong leadership is vital to support our young players and Gareth Southgate deserves credit for standing shoulder to shoulder with his players.

By announcing that England’s ­players are ready to walk off if they are racially abused, it sends the message to all clubs about how they can support their players.

Nobody should feel alone or have to act in isolation if they suffer racist abuse.

It is crucial to tackle racism in ­football once and for all – this is wider than just the game and it also impacts people’s views in wider society.

It is crucial to change people’s ­attitudes, not just give out arbitrary punishments. I asked the Government to outline the steps they are taking to address the scourge of racism in football.

Boris Johnson’s words on this matter leave a bad taste in the mouth, given he refuses to apologise for his own ­racist comments – he even defended them just earlier this year.

The Government must get their own house in order, otherwise, how can anyone believe the Prime Minister is calling out racism with any sincerity? His words are empty.

On the pitch, sportsmen and women need to know they have allies up and down the country.

We must all publicly back our players when they take the brave ­position to walk off the pitch together in solidarity.

Without a doubt, in Westminster, they have an ally in me.

I would 100 per cent support any player or team if they decided to walk off the pitch in protest.

We owe it to our society to make a stand.

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