BARELY a week has passed since the 2021/22 season got up and running back in July without a racist incident of some description occurring somewhere in Scottish football.

A group of Rangers fans was banned from Ibrox indefinitely back in August after a video of them abusing Celtic striker Kyogo Furuhashi as they travelled on a bus to an away match was posted on social media.

Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara was booed during the Europa League group game against Sparta Prague over in the Czech Republic last Thursday night.

Dundee United were convinced their Cameroonian midfielder Jeando Fuchs was targeted by Ross County followers in a cinch Premiership match at Tannadice on Saturday and have submitted evidence to the SFA and SPFL which they believe corroborates their claims.

The rise in racism both inside and outside of stadiums has been depressing and concerning for anyone who cares about the game in this country to witness. 

Show Racism the Red Card, the anti-racism and education charity that is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, is holding a series of events in October in a bid to raise awareness of an issue which their research shows is growing alarmingly and driving players of all ages and both sexes out of football.

Yet, Jordan Allison, the campaign manager for the Scottish arm of the organisation, is far from despondent about the future. He knows what has taken place is symptomatic of wider society. He is convinced the sport has an important role to play in combatting the escalating problem. 

The reaction to the sickening racist abuse that Kamara suffered last season – the midfielder was called a “f****** m*****” by Ondrej Kudela in a Europa League last 16 match against Slavia Prague at Ibrox in March – certainly heartened him.

“Everyone across Scottish football was united and stood with Glen,” said Allison. “Charities like Show Racism the Red Card want to harness that unity and positivity, try and make positive change in policies and make sure that players currently and in future are protected. 

“We want to harness the positivity of football. There are arguments that football has negative elements which can deepen division. But our argument is it has so much more positivity to offer than it is given credit for.

“Merseyside Police have found that hate crime against Muslims has significantly decreased since Mohammed Salah signed for Liverpool. They measured it against other hate crimes and they hadn’t fallen anywhere near the same degree that Islamaphobia had. That is a powerful story about football.”

There are many more. Scott Brown showed his solidarity with Kamara before the Old Firm game at Parkhead following the Slavia match. The then Celtic captain crossed the halfway line, put his arm around his rival and offered some words of support as both teams warmed up before kick-off.

“That was so, so powerful,” said Allison. “You won’t find two bigger rivals than Celtic and Rangers anywhere in football. We looked at social media and what the public discourse was around it and people were fully supportive of what they saw.

“Everyone around the country was talking about it in a positive way. Any anti-racism stance that two rivals take together is welcome. The positive difference it can make is massive.” 

There has been controversy about teams “Taking the Knee” before matches get underway in the past year and calls for it to be stopped. But Allison and his Show Racism the Red Card colleagues have seen first hand the positive impact which it has had among Scottish youngsters.

“It is a really powerful anti-racism gesture that works really well when it is united and reminds people there is much to do,” he said. “We are doing it because racism exists in Scotland.

“What we know in Scotland is that our education teams go into schools every day and young people are talking about it at what is a critical stage in their development. If teams just kicked off that wouldn’t happen.

“You want people to explore and discuss it. Why are they doing this? What are the reasons people are doing it? What more can I do? These are the conversations we want people to have. By taking the knee, footballers are making that happen. After that is where Show Racism the Red Card comes in to it.” 

Allison studied at the University of Lille in France and saw the racial tension and hatred, much of it fuelled by cynical and opportunistic politicians amid the economic downturn, in that country. But he accepts it is a problem without borders and knows other nations cannot afford to be complacent.

“You could see the division and different segregated areas in France,” he said. “There is definitely a rise in the far right politics across Europe. Britain First have been allowed on the electoral register here. They started off as a Facebook group spreading disinformation.

“There has always been an attempt to quash or minimise discussion about racism throughout history. White people in power don’t want to talk about it because it doesn’t affect them. But we have a problem as much as anyone.”

Much racial hatred in modern society is directed at asylum seekers and the immigrant community. Allison recalled how Shadi Ali, a 16-year-old from Invergordon in the Highlands who ran 100 kilometres in seven days to raise money for Show Racism the Red Card last year, had received nothing but praise from his fellow Rangers supporters after his charity venture. He is a Syrian “New Scot”.

“The amount of positive comments from Rangers fans praising him was incredible at a time when there were a large number of negative comments about refugees and the refugee crisis,” he said. “He’s one of us!  

“Perhaps there would be those among those same supporters who would be condemning refugees for crossing the channel. He did that exact thing. But he received nothing but support and praise. The good news stories really keep you going.”

Tam Courts, the Dundee United manager, held up a Show Racism the Red Card t-shirt up at Ross County fans at Tannadice after the alleged Fuchs abuse at the weekend. The charity and their important work will become more prominent in the coming weeks. Allison knows how significant the support of clubs and their players is in their ongoing battle to rid football of racism.

“October is massive for our charity, for all anti-racism charities,” he said. “It coincides with Black History Month. For Show Racism the Red Card, it is our most visible month. It is an important month for fundraising as well.

“We have the ‘Fortnight of Action’ which sees all the players essentially get the green light to show support. They have a pre-match display for supporters and wear the t-shirts. Some even wear the t-shirts during the week. So the footballers get to take ownership of our campaign.

“Every SPFL and SWPL club will share branded infographics on their social media platforms throughout the month. They talk about how to recognise and safely challenge racism in football. They will also, for the first time, talk about challenging racism in schools. They have great reach. It is about getting the message out there.

“We are putting together a short film – We Are All In As Scottish Football United Against Racism – with the help of PFA Scotland. Players from all the top clubs, men and women, in Scotland will be involved.

“It is great for raising awareness. It reaches so many people. But Scottish football does that as it is such a huge part of our culture. Footballers are such positive role models to carry that message.”