‘Zebo Factor’ sends a message against hate
2019-02-01 00:00:00 -

Comment: Ken McCue


In January 1995, Manchester United star France international Eric Cantona jumped into the crowd during a game to aim a kick at a fan who had hurled abuse at him while he was walking off the pitch.


Twenty-four years later, and in a different sport, Ireland rugby international Simon Zebo refrained from using a flying kick to deal with a spectator who subjected him to racist abuse during a game with his French club Racing 92 in Belfast. Instead, he used the power of social media.


Eric Cantona was fined a total of £39,000, given a worldwide ban of eight months and a two-week prison sentence that was changed to 120 hours community service.


Simon Zebo, in contrast, was generally praised by his actions, supported by the European Professional Club Rugby organisation, his club side and Ulster Rugby, who handed down a home ground life ban to the spectator — realising that the PSNI has the power to prosecute under the UK hate crime legislation that emerged out of the Macpherson Report following the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993.


Regrettably, the so-called Ulster fan is free to attend games in the Irish Republic and shout whatever he likes without sanction as, unlike Northern Ireland, the State does not have adequate hate crime legislation to prosecute verbal abuse.


Following news of the ban, Cork native Zebo stated: “It’s good to be able to put it behind me knowing that there was a positive outcome, your man getting banned for life, has happened off the back of it. Hopefully, it doesn’t happen again.”


Sport Against Racism Ireland (Sari) gave further praise as it welcomed “the decision of the Ulster Rugby Board to hand down a life ban on the person who was responsible for the racist abuse of Simon Zebo. Sari further calls on all sport associations on the island of Ireland to follow suit and take similar action against racists. Racism is a hate crime and should also be prosecuted under robust State legislation.”


Sari has been consistent in calling for the extension of the Macpherson principles to the Republic after the Belfast Agreement was put into force 20 years ago. Recently, the NGO — through its membership of the Irish section of the European Network Against Racism — once again called on the Irish Government to scrap the ineffective Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 and replace it with robust hate crime legislation that brings the Republic in line with Northern Ireland that would also extend to cover cyber-hate and hate speech. Sari understands that the new Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, who policed the hate crime legislation in the North, is on standby to take action.


No longer should our sports bodies and Garda ignore the racist abuse of professional soccer players including widely reported abuse of Joseph N’do and Cyrus Christie and countless others cases in amateur sport. Sport Ireland and the Federation of Irish Sport must now build on the ‘Zebo Factor’ and guarantee the human rights of all those associated with sport in this country.


Ken McCue is an intercultural officer with Sport Against Racism Ireland (Sari)


TAGS : Sport Racism Ireland
Other News
Most Read
Most Commented