A NOTABLE aspect among the righteous fury from the English media over the appalling racist abuse suffered by the black players in their national team in Bulgaria on Monday night, was just how surprised they all seemed. It was as if they had just discovered fire.

Now that it had happened to English players (despite many of them seemingly talking to a brick wall about how they have faced this sort of thing at home for years), something simply had to be done. Still, if it took this vile behaviour from the Bulgarian supporters to shake the football world out of its torpor when dealing with race issues, then something good may have come from the whole shameful episode in the end.

In fairness, in the days since, there have been various high-profile commentators urging a spot of self-examination too, and perhaps on the back of all this, England will be able to not only inspire tougher action from the likes of UEFA and FIFA on racism as one of the world game’s major players, but also inspire introspection about the still-prevalent spectre of racism within their own borders.

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All of which got me to thinking, what would it take to shake the Scottish game’s own authorities out of their own collective moribund state when it comes to dealing with the issues we have on our own doorstep?

It was interesting to hear the comments of Dave Scott of anti-sectarianism charity Nil By Mouth on Clyde’s Superscoreboard this week, who put forward the theory that UEFA’s ‘three-step protocol’ for dealing with racism could be implemented in Scotland to deal with the issues that still blight our own terraces.

If you aren’t familiar with the protocol, here is how it played out on Monday night when the monkey noises were raining down and the Nazi salutes were being proudly paraded.

England defender Tyrone Mings set things in motion by informing his captain, Harry Kane, who in turn alerted the officials to what was going on. Presumably, as well as having the traditional refereeing impediment of poor sight, these officials were also deaf.

This led to step one of the protocol kicking in, with an announcement being made over the tannoy as follows: “Because of racist behaviour which is interfering with the game, the referee has indicated he may have to suspend the match.

“Please be in no doubt that the game may be suspended and abandoned if racist behaviour continues.”

As you may have already presumed, that was welcomed like an Extinction Rebellion protester on the tube, serving only to provoke the vulgar Bulgarians further.

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So, step two then kicked in, with a longer delay to the match as the referee consulted the English bench about what they wanted to do, with the real threat that the players would simply walk off and the game would have to be abandoned.

Personally, I think they were right to stand their ground. Why let the Neanderthals win? Better to get it right round them. Even if it did put me and probably thousands of other Scots in the unusual position of wanting England to win. Not only that, in fact, but to pummel Bulgaria.

Anyway, after a quick confab at half-time, step three of the protocol – where the game is abandoned – was thankfully not required, and England went on to stuff the worst hosts since Mick Fleetwood and Sam Fox by six goals to nil.

Every goal, particularly when it was scored by those such as Raheem Sterling who had been on the receiving end of the abuse, was almost as sweet as watching Leigh Griffiths puncture the English net twice in quick succession at Hampden. Almost.

The abuse during the second half of the match was indeed far less audible. It is debatable in my book whether that was down to the threat of the game being abandoned or the way that England were dishing out a good old-fashioned pumping, but nevertheless, it has led to calls from Scott and some others to give the three-step protocol a bash here.

As well-meaning as that is, and as much as I was nodding along with a wry smile to Scott’s killer line about it being better than the SPFL’s own current three-step protocol of seeing nothing, hearing nothing and doing nothing, I don’t think that it would be the silver bullet to rid Scottish football of sectarianism.

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The three-step protocol, to me, suffers from many of the same issues as the wider notion of strict liability does, with the innocent fans among the crowd punished for the behaviour of the offenders. On top of that, it is hard to know just how effective it actually is from the example of the England game, and not only because of their dominance on the field. The third step wasn’t actually carried out, with England’s players deciding to play on. The reluctance of the referee to make such a call would have been rooted in what that decision may have done to escalate safety concerns, rather than alleviate them.

And here is where the three-step protocol may fall down if it was ever brought in here. I can just imagine the look on the safety officer’s face if a referee informed them that 50 or 60,000 punters would have to be evacuated as an Old Firm game had been abandoned due to sectarian singing. It’s a laudable notion, but unfortunately, a practical nightmare.

What is the answer? In the short-term, who knows? So far, the SPFL have only come up with a predictably mealy-mouthed response to Scott’s proposal (we condemn sectarianism, we are working closely with our partners, you know the kind of thing) that suggests fresh ideas are thin on the ground at the league’s governing body too.

Longer term work around educating youngsters might be the only way to erode what is mercifully – if slowly - becoming as much of a taboo as racism now is across Scottish society.