With a declined handshake reigniting controversy over racism in football, Falkirk players joined with local school pupils to launch a national anti-racism campaign this week.
The pupils from Dunipace and Easter Carmuirs primary schools were joined by Falkirk FC first team players and Academy graduates Craig Comrie, Kris Faulds and Graham Bowman and Falkirk’s Provost Pat Reid to kick off the Show Racism the Red Card competition.
Football has had its problems with racism over the past year.
Last weekend controversy was re-opened when QPR defender Anton Ferdinand refused to shake hands with Chelsea captain John Terry after he allegedly racially abused him during an English Premier League match.
The incident saw Terry charged by police, but he was later cleared in court. He still faces a Football Association (FA) charge.
A similar incident occurred between Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Manchester United’s Patrice Evra last year. Suarez was banned for eight games after being found guilty of racial abuse towards Evra by the FA.
Here in Scotland, sectarianism is a much larger problem. Celtic manager Neil Lennon was sent death threats and a bullet in the post.
The campaign also hopes to change the attitude of fans who chant sectarian and racist abuse at players and fans at games.
However, football is seen as a key sport in helping to provide a platform to teach children about the social problems which plague society as footballers are seen as hugely influential role models due to their high media profiles.
Kids are being asked to get creative and develop ways of communicating anti-racism and anti-sectarianism messages throughout their communities.
Campaign worker Amanda Peebles said: “Having the support of professional football clubs and their players has a tremendously positive impact on young people participating in the campaign.
“Falkirk FC is a huge supporter of it and we are delighted that we launched the competition here.
“We hope the young people who attended the launch event are encouraged to enter the competition and to share their experiences with their school, inspiring other classes to enter the competition too.”
Scottish Qualifications Authority’s chairman Graham Houston, who attended the launch, said: “The competition shows the belief that there’s no place for racism and sectarianism in Scotland.”