Desmond Kane

Intolerance has no borders in British football

Desmond Kane

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When little Englanders scribble for Middle England, the taste on the palate can be as repugnant as a posse of Chelsea 'fans' visiting Belgium to tell Anton Ferdinand 'we know what you are'.

Picking up a copy of a right-wing rag that passes itself off as an
organ of moral rectitude in recent times, it was difficult not to recall the
ludicrousness of one article by a hack trying to pass himself off as
some sort of wise sage on why Celtic and Rangers - and the 'barbaric bigotry' that tails the Glasgow clubs - should never be
allowed access to England's elite division.

A racist undercurrent remains prevalent in English football, but it is the social ill of sectarianism that apparently demands Rangers and/or Celtic have no place in the highfalutin' environs of the Premier League.

"Entry to the world of Rangers and Celtic may become an introduction to a casual bigotry that is simply not a factor in the game south of the border, for all its problems," commented the author. "In this way, Scottish football remains a much worse England: and it is why its biggest clubs must be left to resolve their troubles, alone."

Best not to mention the casual racism south of the border. Full of factual inaccuracies, it this sort of ignorant lingo you expect to hear from Alf Garnett or a London cabbie blaming the country's social ills on the influx of various Johnny Foreigner sorts into the UK, or those pesky 'Jocks' coming down from the hills.

The introduction of Rangers and Celtic - or even an Aberdeen or Hearts - into the English game would hardly soil a landscape that is already tainted. The Premier League is not suddenly infiltrated by sunshine and roses after the English disease of hooliganism adorned the 1980s.

Recent happenings suggest that English football has as many problems with racism and bigotry in its own green and unpleasant lands as those that go on in and around the fringes of the Scottish game.

The shiny new stadiums of the monied Premier League is merely a front for the anti-social behaviour it hides. It has only being lying dormant, despite the arrival of a wealthy, middle class supporter over the past two decades.

When the Celtic manager Neil Lennon was receiving death threats, letter bombs and bullets sent to him in the post from various outposts in the wild, wild west of Ayrshire earlier this year, there was a collective shaking of the head in England, almost in sympathy to suggest at least this sort of stuff is not going on in their own backyard.

Of course, this is balderdash. We had the sight of Arsenal fans singing 'It should have been you - shot dead in Angola - it should have been you' at their former player Emmanuel Adebayor during a match at Tottenham last month. Adebayor avoided death when the Togo team bus was ambushed during the 2010 African Nations Cup.

Ferdinand received a death threat in the post on Friday after Chelsea captain Terry made an alleged racist comment towards the Queens Park Rangers player during a game at Loftus Road last month. Is this any worse than Scotland's affliction?

The issue of sectarianism has been used as a stick to beat Rangers and Celtic with on why neither club should be allowed a move to richer shores. From a sporting perspective - as the Bolton chairman Phil Gartside subscribed to on the last vote on the subject - any observer with an ouce of common sense knows that both the Glasgow clubs would quickly become key components of the Premier League. The level of finance that would become available to them - and their respective fan bases -  would demand as much.

Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham, Liverpool and Manchester United have all been to European finals in recent times, but it is only Celtic who have been afforded the gratitude of UEFA and FIFA for the estimated 80,000 or so fans who descended upon Seville for the UEFA Cup final in 2003. Celtic also carried greater numbers for a UEFA Cup final than Manchester United gathered for their trip to Barcelona to lift the Champions League in 1999.

The riots at the 2008 UEFA Cup final between Rangers and Zenit St Petersburg in Manchester was an evening of lamentable sights and sounds, but the problem with the type of characters who clamp themselves to the Glasgow club are as unsavoury as those who come out of the woodwork to support clubs such as West Ham and Millwall. The answer to discrimination is surely not more discrimination.

Like the UEFA Cup final, what should have been an innocuous Carling Cup tie in 2009 between the Hammers and Millwall became a crime scene. Upton Park was the bloodied focal point for the reawakening of the glamorised subculture of the 'football casual', a figure who many thought had witnessed the peak of his gory years over two decades ago. He is alive and kicking in London.

One man stabbed, several pitch invasions and arrests aplenty. Police on horseback, police in riot gear, police in helicopters and an assortment of 'supporters' led away. Seats ripped up, bottles tossed and Carlton Cole, the West Ham player, allegedly suffering racial abuse. This was a night to prompt despairing glances.

"I know I'm not a monkey. I might be as strong as a gorilla but I'm not a monkey. That's life, isn't it?" said Cole.

Scotland's leading two clubs may remain tethered to the Scottish Premier League for some time to come, but they should not be denied a place in the Premier League on the basis of an intolerance that continues to ache within English football.

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