Brave stance by fans on racism is to be applauded
WELL done, the football fans who came forward over the case of the spectator who shouted racist abuse at black players of both sides in a Pride Park match.
As a result, Adam Smith, of Allenton, has been found guilty, after a two-day trial by Derby magistrates, of racially aggravated use of threatening and abusive language.
The game was between Derby County and Birmingham City and the players targeted were Derby's Nathan Tyson and Birmingham's Marlon King.
No question, then, that this was a case of a hopelessly misguided Rams fan trying to put an opponent off his game – not that would have provided an iota of justification, in any event.
Plainly, all he was interested in was the colour of the skin and not the colour of the shirts.
Levels of racial abuse at professional football matches these days fall a long way short of the horrible days of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
But let us not pretend that the problem has disappeared.
As a handful of high-profile incidents have shown, it can still rear its ugly head among international players as well.
Some spectators – let's not dignify them by calling them fans, the game can well do without their warped idea of support – are unable to change what are presumably the habits of a lifetime and cannot resist racist-based abuse, whether muttered, howled or sung.
What was different in the case of Smith was that three fans in the crowd were moved to report him to police.
And, because of all-seating stadia, such offenders can be much more easily identified than in the days of the Pop Side massed throngs at the Baseball Ground.
In many other cases, fans do not show such a sense of responsibility – either because they are not sufficiently offended by the abuse or because they do not want to become involved in the repercussions.
It is understandable if the latter is the explanation. The prospect of embarking on a process which could see them called to a courtroom as witnesses can be intimidating – as can a fear of coming face to face with the foul-mouthed person they are accusing.
But those that do take the public-spirited stance are to be applauded.
The game as an entertainment for all the family will be immensely better as a result.