There are no “quick-fire ways” to tackle racism in football – with the “slow burner” of education in the stands and society offering hope of progression, according to former England defender Paul Parker.
Recent high-profile incidents of racial abuse, including being aimed at England players during a Euro 2020 qualifier away to Montenegro, have led to calls for direct action.
Earlier this week, Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi signalled he would be ready to walk off after teenage Italy forward Moise Kean was racially abused by Cagliari supporters.
Parker, 55, came through the ranks at Fulham in the early 1980s before going on to play for QPR and in 1991 moving to Manchester United, where he won the Premier League twice.
While the full-back, part of the England squad who reached the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup, believes both the game and society have progressed since his time as a player, there remains plenty of work ahead for equality.
“There is no quick answer, everything is a progression,” Parker told Press Association Sport.
“Everything starts from the adults and what they deliver to their children, they are a reflection of you as a parent. Sometimes we have to say what we see out there is a poor reflection on life really.
“In England, when we look at it, what some of the parents are doing, you feel sorry for their kids, they have not been given an opportunity to understand, of knowing what they are doing.
“When you see what happened in Montenegro and also in Italy, as well as the bits we are seeing here, you do know there is a massive problem.
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“It is a slow burner. It is not going to happen straight away. Now there are too many people looking for quick-fire ways of doing things, that is not going to happen, it is impossible.
“It is just a learning process. If we look at sorting ourselves out here, we are just going to have to try to educate people more, to get them to understand that everyone is the same.
“It is more about how people conduct themselves – you cannot go around and demand everything, you can’t expect to be given it.
“You have to earn the right, and earn respect, that is the thing we are missing at this moment, people are not giving each other enough respect and understanding in what life is about now.”
Parker, who is set to take on the challenge of the Football to Amsterdam 2019 cycle ride in aid of Prostate Cancer UK during June, feels the next generation can make a difference – if they are allowed to grow.
“When we lived in Singapore, my children went to an international school. Kids there are describing kids by their hair and the colour tops they have got on, not even looking at skin colour,” he said.
“(When you hear that), then you know that things are great with kids. What kills it is adults, they come in and want to dictate – let your kids be free, and give them the opportunity to make their own mind up in life. That is not happening enough out there.”
Tottenham defender Danny Rose was one of the England players subjected to racist chants while on international duty in Podgorica.
UEFA has opened disciplinary charges against Montenegro, including for racist behaviour of their supporters.
Parker, though, questions what actual impact any financial penalty might have.
He said: “What good is a fine to a Premier League club or any club?
“They only way to do it is to take away things from people – if your football club is doing that, then sorry, you are going to be deducted points.”