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Just how much more can Millwall do as a club to deal with this problem?
1:21pm Tuesday 12th February 2013 in Sport
UNSURPRISINGLY, last night’s Sky Sports programme about racist chanting at The Den is the subject of this week’s MATT LITTLE Millwall column.
AND there was me worrying as our season peters out to a damp squib I'd have nothing much to write about!
But Sky trying to do serious investigative journalism has come to the rescue.
They put their considerable resources into looking at that hottest of topics at the moment - racism in football.
Sounds interesting doesn't it, especially given the number of incidents over the last year or so, allied to their unique position as English football's paymaster and therefore their ability to dig deeper behind the scenes of some of the world's most recognisable and powerful clubs than anyone else.
It was therefore surprising their main focus seemed to be on a pretty soft target - a club playing in the very heart of an inner-city community teeming with racial tension way beyond the control of a small second division football team.
Focusing on Millwall might have made more sense if the club had been used as an example of a football club which does have its problems with racism - but one that faced up to those problems and concentrated a considerable amount of time and resources trying to counteract them - before moving on to the more alarming ‘sweeping it under the carpet’ culture at clubs with far more resources and public influence who have featured in very high profile incidents in recent memory.
However, I don't think it takes a genius to work out why that didn't happen.
Sadly, and rather depressingly, all this so-called investigation revealed was no matter what the club do, individuals with toxic opinions can buy tickets at The Den and spout those opinions to a captive audience.
Here you have to question what on earth the club pay our stewards and hefty police bill for, as the club has a very strong and clear policy of banning anyone caught using racist language or gestures.
Which, to any fair minded observer, is all the club can really do.
Conversely, while the club as an institution can certainly be absolved of any blame for this kind of thing - I can't think of a club with a stronger or clearer anti-racism stance -perhaps us fans do have to shoulder some of the blame, however indirectly, as a whole.
If we are honest, we revel in our 'no-one likes us' mentality and the fact we are hated by what we see as the liberal media and sterilised football community.
So, while it is true every other club in the land has racist fans among their support also, perhaps racist Millwall fans believe our philosophy of 'no-one likes us, we don't care' is a banner under which they can spout their views without judgement.
In fact, it is one of the sad facts of Millwall supporting life that the siege mentality which makes us so strong in one sense also means the club can never hope to escape the attention of morons with their own agendas.
Be it a clearly unhinged racist, bottle throwing morons, or even away fans out to prove they can out do anything our own morons can do - for example a minority of the usually affable Charlton support ripping out seats, throwing flares and smashing up toilets at The Den in December.
These people are naive if they think they represent the vast majority of Millwall fans.
Indeed, there were allegations of our nailed-on player of the season Danny Shittu being racially abused by one of our own fans, although no evidence of this was presented.
Danny would join Tony Warner, Richard Shaw, Tam Mkandawire and Jimmy Abdou in recent Millwall player of the seasons where colour has played no role in the choice, making that individual, if he existed, a rather marginalised buffoon.
But that is the key thing to take from the whole thing, this is a case of individuals, not a whole club mentality.
The controversy caused by yesterday’s programme is, of course, something Millwall have had to deal with since another rather sensationalist documentary was shown to the general public in 1977.
I have criticised the likes of Andy Ambler before when I have believed it is fair to do so, but he does have a tough gig with this unique of all English football clubs - at once a community club, but one with a siege mentality that is both a positive and negative.
But all we can do as a club is exactly what we have been doing, the club and its fans can be extremely proud of that.
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