THE head of the footballers’ union has blamed a “rise in right-wing nationalism” for an upsurge in players being targeted by racist fans.
Fraser Wishart also warned that racism at football stadiums may never be stamped out.
The chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association Scotland said the political climate has “empowered” racists who go to games and warned: “Nobody can get rid of racism from society and from football grounds.”
He said: “I think there’s a rise in right-wing nationalism and people feel a bit more empowered to come out with racist views. That is then reflected in football grounds.
“Football doesn’t create racists, society does – and these people come to football grounds.”
Mr Wishart also pointed the finger at the mentality of “older guys” who he said may never change their racist views.
He said: “There are still people out there who think it’s okay to come to football grounds and make racist comments.
“You’ll always have them coming to games. You can’t change an older guy’s mentality if they are racist. But what we can do now is go to the younger generation. We have to make sure football grounds are a safe environment for our members.”
He spoke out as two players – Hearts’ Arnaud Djoum and Aberdeen’s Shay Logan – rounded on racists and demanded action to curb the abuse.
Hearts issued indefinite bans to two fans after Motherwell’s Christian Mbulu was racially abused last weekend.
It was the third racist incident to stain Scottish football recently, following Celtic’s Scott Sinclair being targeted by an Aberdeen fan during the League Cup Final on December 2 and Falkirk forward Dennon Lewis being abused during a match with Stenhousemuir at the end of November.
Two supporters were arrested after the incident involving Mr Mbulu and a Falkirk supporter was given a warning by police after Mr Lewis was targeted.
It also emerged this week that Dundee United defender Jamie Robson blacked up at a fancy dress party. The 20-year-old has been ordered to undergo diversity training.
In England, Chelsea supporters were suspended after abuse was aimed at Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling last week.
Mr Djoum, from Cameroon, who was playing in the match when Mr Mbulu was targeted, told The Sunday Post the incident was “terrible”.
He said: “That doesn’t have a place in football. These things should never happen in the stadium.
“The club has banned them for life and it’s a good thing that cameras were there to catch them. These people don’t have a place in a stadium.”
Mr Djoum, who said he has not personally suffered racial abuse in Scotland, added: “You can’t control or change what these people think.”
Mr Logan warned that racism will always cast a shadow over Scottish football. He said he has been racially abused “loads of times”.
“Racism is never going to go,” he said. “I’m not going to say it might be the next game but there will be a time in a game when somebody feels they want to choose to say something like that.
“It is not just in football, you get it in all forms of life.”
He described the abuse footballers in Scotland have received as “despicable” and revealed there appears to be a pattern of incidents.
“It hasn’t been the bigger games and it seems to be against the same sort of teams,” he said.
Bulgarian footballer Aleksandar Tonev received a seven-match ban for racially abusing Mr Logan during a match against Celtic in 2014.
Opening up about the incident, Mr Logan said: “Tonev did not show me respect so I showed him no respect in terms of I reported that.
“He is a professional footballer and at the time there were four or five black people on his team – it was a lack of respect.”
The Aberdeen defender added that “there will be racism in the game” but “you just have to deal with it”.