Racism 'creeping back' in Scottish football, says Kevin Harper

Kevin Harper finished his professional career at Dunfermline in 2009
Kevin Harper finished his professional career at Dunfermline in 2009

Racism is "creeping back" in Scottish football, says Kevin Harper.

And the Albion Rovers manager is calling for the game's ruling bodies to impose tougher penalties.

His comments follow figures from Show Racism the Red Card revealing over a third of young people have witnessed or experienced racism while playing football in the past academic year.

"I'd say it's more prevalent now than it was five years ago," former Hibs striker Harper, 43, told BBC Scotland.

"I look back on my career. There was racism when I started, there was racism in the middle and there was racism when I stopped playing.

"It was a little bit different then. There wasn't as many black or ethnic players involved. The authorities didn't really know how to deal with it and tried to sweep it under the carpet.

"I've not had it (abuse) in the dugout but, if I get to the very top, then, unfortunately, I have no doubt that I will get it.

"We see it creeping back in. The powers at be across football have to put in place stricter sanctions."

This week, Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin said the "football family and governments" need to "wage war on the racists" after the abuse of England players by home fans in Bulgaria.

And Lazio's stadium will be partly closed for their Europa League game against Celtic next month as punishment for repeat racist behaviour by their supporters.

Last month, Hearts issued indefinite bans to two supporters for racist and sectarian taunts during a match against Hamilton.

"We can't keep giving people a slap on the wrist, saying that's okay we've banned them for life," said former Scotland under-21 cap Harper. "For me that's just box ticking. How do you prove a person you've banned for life isn't in your stadium?

"I think there an attitude of 'I don't want to say anything about it'. People are maybe scared to approach a steward, worried about what happens the next time they are at a game.

"At the football, some fans seem to think they can spend £20-£30 on a ticket and say whatever they like. Whereas if you were walking down the street, at no point would anybody say 'yes you can give me £30 and you can call me whatever you want for 90 minutes'.

"There is a minority that are still racist in their chanting. I think Scotland has to take a stand and say 'this is how we are going to tackle it'. Be a flag bearer for changing people's thoughts on racism in all walks of life."

Jordan Allison of the education charity Show Racism the Red Card told BBC Scotland's The Nine: "We worked with 3,700 young people last year and 34% said they had witnessed or experienced racism in football at schools, grassroots level and the football academies.

"More needs to be done on educating kids on what racism actually is and how to report it."

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