IF YOU are the sort of geek (like me) who pays attention when the annual crime statistics are published, you will be aware of the standardised – by now presumably Pavlovian – response from the Home Office to either good news or bad.
If crime has decreased, they praise the excellent work of the police.
If it has increased, however, they also claim a victory of sorts, insisting that the figure has risen because more people, having seen the excellent work of the police, are now bothering to report more crimes.
Clever, eh? Well it would be, if it was not precisely the sort of insultingly transparent spin-doctoring which drives most normal folk away from following politics and into the plastic bosom of the nearest reality TV show, which is equally fake but generally more entertaining.
So I was surprised to find myself spouting the exact same theory about racism in English football – and meaning it.
Let me explain. For many years, overt racism was clearly on the wane in football. Monkey chanting, banana-chucking, the jeering of players simply for being black: all of these things faded away, if not completely then to rare blips.
So too did the less hateful (but still wrong) form of prejudice, typified by Ron Atkinson referring to his trio of black players at West Bromwich Albion as “The Three Degrees”.
Progress was obviously being made and, like the Home Office in the face of a falling crime stat, we all patted ourselves on the back.
Now, after a spate of racism scandals, the Cassandras claim we were wrong to rest on our laurels, that racism is alive and well, that these are dark days for our national sport.
Au contraire (as half the Arsenal team might say). Each of these recent incidents – Luis Suarez, John Terry, and now allegedly the referee Mark Clattenburg, who denies the claim that he racially abused two Chelsea players on Sunday – proves that English football is taking the issue seriously.
The English game is being dogged by racism “scandals” not because our players (who come from all nations, remember) are more likely to be racist, but because we have created a zero tolerance environment in which players feel able to report even minor racial slurs.
If similar scandals are not dominating the media in say, Russia or Serbia, that is not because those countries have abolished racism. It is because they are still cheerfully ignoring it.
So, yes, bring on the racism “scandals”. The more the merrier. Let’s have one every weekend, if that is what it takes. Because every time the world sees the English excoriating ourselves over racism, that is not a scandal. It is a triumph.