The hunt continues for those guilty of racially abusing Heung-min Son at the Spurs-Millwall FA Cup quarter-final and the sooner this is punished and an example set the better, if you ask me.
There is no place inside or outside football grounds for this kind of behaviour and it is a challenge we must all meet.
In the most similar incident to this that ever cropped up in my career, I had to be honest when asked by Mike Riley and the police whether I had heard chants directed at a visiting forward, and say no, I hadn’t.
Whether or not I was too focused on other duties and the hurly-burly of a competitive fixture or not, much like with our reliance on competent stewards, it would have taken the strength of my statement to take the matter further.
One difference, of course is that while many a steward may well be tempted to turn a deaf ear and cite volunteer status or minimum wage as a reason to “not get involved” should a chant be barely audible, the officials owe it to the players to come down hard any time such ugly language is aired.
Ideally that will be the case for any witness, professional or not, in future, and we can really get to grips with the problem.
Had I actually heard the alleged comments myself as the referee on the day, it would next have gone to the match commander and the stadium safety officer, with attempts to root out the culprits along with an announcement that the chanting in question should cease.
The referee is well within his rights to take the players from the field of play if the chants continue or until perpetrators are identified, and, if those efforts fail, to abandon the game.
In the wake of such a controversial cup encounter at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Manchester United, I’m also reminded that the ref himself has to be careful what he says and there was no better example than the mistaken assumptions made during
the League Cup clash back in 2012 taken by my former colleague, Mark Clattenburg.
He took some diabolical abuse from one player in particular after that player’s team-mate had misinterpreted a completely innocent remark by Clatts.
He was rightly exonerated and the main offender required to publicly state that he would welcome being refereed by Clatts again, which all could have been avoided so easily.
Now it saddens me to have to widen the issue out and have to demand better protection all round, because secretaries at local associations are still not backing up local referees sufficiently in my opinion.
In no way am I diluting the strength of my opposition to what Son had to endure, in fact I am pointing out how lack of action only encourages the least responsible among spectators to treat people with deplorable lack of respect, and linking the urgent need for action and vigilance in any area that continually leaves players, referees or any other participant vulnerable.
Look at the way many parents of players get away with intimidating teenage referees who are asked to take charge of players just two or three years younger than themselves in some cases.
There is a step process laid down by UEFA that should be followed to the letter and the abuse has to stop. It’s as simple as that.