England players feel they can’t report racist abuse to governing bodies, reveals Gareth Southgate

Some England players have been unwilling to report racial abuse in the past because they don’t feel it will be appropriately dealt with by governing bodies, Gareth Southgate has revealed.

The FA have welcomed Uefa’s investigation into the shameful incidents which marred the 5-1 win away to Montenegro, but the manager has questioned the effect of sanctions. The precedence in such situations has been for mere fines of £43,000, with Article 14 of Uefa’s disciplinary regulations dictating that only a second offence of racism brings a full stadium ban.

It is this that has led players feeling it is often pointless to report incidents.

“We spoke to them a lot before the summer and they were very clear they wanted to play their football,” Southgate said, when initially asked about the possibility of taking the players off the pitch.

“Some of them did not even want to report things because they don’t have faith that things will be dealt with appropriately or they would make a difference. So that is why I am conscious of their feelings when I am speaking as well.

“It is an impossible line to find the right path. I think I have to speak as I always do, but I can’t discuss sanctions, because what is the right sanction? Is it a big fine? Is it the closing of sections of a stadium? What is honestly going to make any difference?

“The difference for me is educating people. I find that difficult because I don’t find anybody as different to anybody else. Kids are born into the world and they don’t have a bone of malice in their body so it is what we impose on them as adults. We can criticise authorities for sanctions, but the problem is deeper than sanctions.”

Southgate appeared so devastated by the night’s events that he even questioned whether he himself could have done more.

“You have asked me a question about should I have taken the team off and should I have done more,” he said. “So understandably I want to go and reflect on whether I should have handled everything differently. Because the last thing I would want is to feel I have let the players down or missed an opportunity to highlight the subject. So, no, it is not what I have witnessed that is causing the reaction. It’s just I am in a position where I can make a difference and generally speaking, I have been able to do that. I wanted to think about whether I could have done that differently tonight.”

Southgate did however praise the response of his players, and particularly Raheem Sterling. The forward – who cupped his ears to the stand after scoring, in a move that initially drew focus to the racial abuse – called for stadium closures after the game.

“I said after what he said that he has made a difference not just in a football sense but in a societal sense,” Southgate added. “He has raised awareness for everybody of an area that made us all think. That was extremely powerful.

“I know he is speaking after the game tonight and I have not had more than two minutes with him and Danny [Rose] and Callum [Hudson-Odoi] to talk to them about their feelings and how they want me to approach it. I have told them we follow the official lines and that we will report it and that we are there for them. But I have not had time really to get to know their feelings.”

Uefa opened proceedings against Montenegro on Tuesday, including a charge of racist behaviour.

The FA condemned the abuse and pledged to help with Uefa’s investigation.

“On Monday evening, England players were subjected to abhorrent racist chanting while playing in a Uefa EURO 2020 qualifier in Montenegro,” the statement said.

“This is unacceptable at any level of the game and we welcome Uefa’s decision today to take disciplinary action.

“Our immediate focus is on supporting Uefa with their investigation and the players and staff involved.”

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