Why racism issues go beyond the football pitch

The last few months have been littered with controversy over alleged racism in football.

The England captain John Terry and Liverpool striker Luis Suarez were both accused of making racist comments which have provoked outrage, with Suarez enduring a long ban for his comments.

Fifa President Sepp Blatter may not have chosen his words wisely when suggesting that bad things happen in the heat of a football match and that a handshake alone should be enough to settle such disputes.

I remember when I was a boy, at a private school, where kids were continually throwing racist insults at me and teachers ignored them. When the point was raised, they tended to say "It's no different to you calling them 'whitey'" even though I never would.

I was in my gym changing rooms last week and the issue came up again. Grown West Indian men were commenting on the looks they got from potential employers when they turned up for jobs.

The insinuation was that with English names, they had a chance of an interview but once the employers saw the colour of their skin, they made their excuses and the candidate was on his way without being able to prove his worth.

I'm relieved that I have never noticed that sort of conduct from clients or employers in the past but I suspect it does happen to those with more noticeably darker skin than mine.

It's a sad fact that racism and prejudice does still exist in our society and to suggest otherwise is folly.

Prejudice can easily turn to hate and provoke clashes between communities, murders and wars. And yet football, along with other sports, has the opportunity to do something about it.

What Sepp Blatter needs to do - and indeed the whole of football needs to do - is to take a hard stance against racism.

England fans have seen how their players have been subjected to such abuse in Spain and Poland, ironically one of the countries where the UEFA Euro takes place next summer.

UEFA could do a great deal more to threaten clubs and national associations with points deductions and competition exclusions if racist chanting and abuse is allowed to continue.

I hope those who were pictured racially abusing players at Anfield during the heat of the FA Cup game between the two sides are banned from football for life - and that whoever sent QPR a bullet is dealt with even more severely.

Nelson Mandela, speaking at the launch of the Laureus World Sports Awards more than a decade ago, said that sport has the power to change the world.

Football is watched by billions of people and the way top professionals conduct themselves certainly influences young people and thus the communities in which they live.

Footballers must recognise that they must take an active stand against racism, homophobia and any other prejudice that blights our world.