Football must take a proactive approach to racism

Football has been in the news for all the wrong reasons this week.

It started with comments by legendary Italian coach Arrigo Saachi, who complained that “In our youth sides there are too many black players. Italian football is now without dignity or pride because it has too many foreigners playing in the youth teams.”

Saachi, who coached the all-conquering AC Milan team featuring Dutchmen Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit - whose families come from Suriname - later claimed that his comments were taken out of context and that his record of working with squads filled with players from around the world speaks for itself.

Whether his initial comments were poorly phrased or misinterpreted, Saachi should have apologised for offending anyone - and plenty were offended - and sought to clarify his opinions in a more palatable manner.

Later this week, supporters of Chelsea FC were filmed pushing a black man to prevent him boarding a Metro train in Paris ahead of their team's Champions League match with Paris St Germain.

The fans' behaviour has met with criticism, including from UK Prime Minister David Cameron and from Chelsea themselves.

It's somewhat ironic that this week's Premier League game against Burnley had been appointed as Chelsea's 'Game of Equality' with Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas promoting the event on the club's website

It's a great gesture but not something that gets the profile that it should do, particularly in the light of  Paris incident.

To observers on the outside, football is in a bad place with regards to racism, and last year the head of Fifa's anti-racism task force Jeffrey Webb highlighted what he believes to be a real issue with prejudice in English football.

Football is not the problem, of course.

Fan behaviour is simply a reflection of society but that doesn't mean that the world's most popular sport cannot do something to help.

Clubs whose fans are found guilty of racist behaviour at matches should be punished far more heavily than simply having their stadia shut and comparatively minor fines imposed.

Governing bodies, clubs and players must all do more to remind supporters of zero tolerance to racist or homophobic behaviour.

And more clubs should follow Chelsea's lead in promoting equality and do so with more vigour until such time where prejudice is a thing of the past.

Kick It Out does a great job promoting inclusion and diversity but so much more can be done.

We've just seen the biggest television deal in English football history - and the eyes of the world will continue to be fascinated by the Premier League.

So whether it is cracking down on racist chants or behaviour or undertaking more interviews for ethnic minority candidates in board rooms and dugouts, football has an opportunity to set the standard for others to follow.

Sadly, that seems a long way off.