West Ham United forward Michail Antonio has called for harsher punishments to help eradicate racism in football, including ‘games behind closed doors and points deductions’.
The Premier League has witnessed a number of high-profile racial incidents this season, including Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah being subjected to alleged abuse by Hammers fans during their game earlier this month.
Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has also had a banana skin thrown in his direction during the north London derby at the Emirates in December, while Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling was the subject of alleged racial abuse during a game against Chelsea in the same month.
While the fan that threw the banana skin received a fine and four-year ban from football, Antonio told Sky Sports News that tougher sanctions that impacted the club would perhaps work as a better deterrent.
He said: “Finding an individual does nothing. That one person, okay, he gets banned for life but to be honest no one has a picture of his face. He can get back into the stadium.
“If you affect their team – these fans love their team – the fans, his friends, are going to turn on him. If you start playing games behind closed doors and deducting points, then the problem is inside themselves. They are going to deal with it themselves.”
Antonio’s comments came after Sky Sports News released data claiming 86% of football fans that regularly attended games in the UK have witnessed racial incidents, while that figure rises to 93% for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic supporters.
While admitting his surprise at the results, the 28-year-old believes more should be done by the FA and UEFA when racial incidents at football games occur.
He added: “86 per cent is quite high to be honest – I wouldn’t have said 86. I would have said more in the 40s but I put it down to ignorance more than anything else.
“I feel like it is getting worse but I’m not going to blame the English leagues. I would blame the FA and UEFA because I don’t feel like they’re strict enough when it happens.
“Racism can be stopped in football stadiums but it all depends on what the FA and UEFA want to do about it. If they want to hammer down on it next season, it could take five or 10 years [to eradicate].
“If they keep thinking of other solutions rather than just hitting it straight on the head, then it could take generations.”