OPINION: When a six-year-old spouted racial abuse at Blundell Park
By Geoff Ford, Grimsby Telegraph columnist
VIEWERS of Sky Sports News may have seen the interview this week with Ugo Ehiogu, the former Aston Villa and England centre-back.
Sky are undertaking a probe into racism in the game and mainly concentrated their investigation on Millwall fans.
But Ehiogu, now 40, recalled being racially abused in a match at Blundell Park while he warmed up on the touchline.
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What shocked him was that the abuse came from a boy aged 'six or seven' who gave him a real tirade while the youngster's father watched from just a couple of yards away.
Not a nice incident and not a good reflection of Grimsby on national TV.
But this happened almost 20 years ago when the boy was among a huge crowd of over 15,000 fans who saw Villa knock Town out of the FA Cup .
It may have been anecdotal but was it pertinent to a probe on racism in the game today?
Maybe if we had a current clean sheet we could say it was unnecessary to bring it up. Unfortunately, we only have to look at what happened at the ground last season to get our answer.
A current Town player was abused when playing for Braintree and a woman fan was hauled before the courts. So, however isolated, it still goes on.
The difference is in our attitude to it. While not much was done about racism in football 20 or 30 years ago, today it is taboo and offenders, if identified, are punished.
Society has changed in the last few decades. And football has evolved from the days when monkey chants were commonplace.
Overt racism still exists in a small minority, covertly the numbers may be bigger.
In football there are certain clubs with an historic reputation for it. It seems to be concentrated in one or two hotbeds, but it is being gradually marginalised and, though there will always be racists, as there will always be criminals of all types, such behaviour is no longer tolerated by most decent people.
Should more be done? The argument continues to rage over the carrot and the stick.
Should we actively seek out racism and go in hard with punitive sanctions, as activists like Jason Roberts demand.
Or should we, while still punishing offenders, encourage society through education to recognise its faults and willingly adopt and accept proper values over time?