A bit of a strange one really. Only once have I ever had this problem come up for me and it turned out the players and team accusing said player of racism were actually lying to get the player sent off. I nor anyone else (apart from the players alleging this had happened) had heard nor seen this alleged racism.
This echoes of course of the whole Mark Clatterneburg scenario with Chelsea, Luis Suarez of Liverpool with Patrice Evra of Manchester United.
In relation to my incident, I told them due to this I couldn’t actually send that player off but I would make a note of it and report it to the appropriate bodies and I suggested if they wanted to take it further then to contact the police and explain the situation to them.
Since then we have had incidents ranging from allegations of referees racially abusing players, fans abusing players and previously players abusing players.
I have found there are three scenarios when it comes to Racism in football and it depends what level of football is being played. At the top you either have:
A. Have heard and seen (this could be a linesman or a 4th/5th/6th official who has heard and seen) a racist comment from a player/coach/ manager who should then be sent off and the matter will then be left to The FA to deal with.
B. An allegation is made regarding a player/ coach/ manager but it wasn’t heard or seen by an official. The best thing to do in this situation is to try calm the player down, using captains and key players. Find out exact details and tell all involved that this incident was not seen or heard but will be reported to The FA for them to deal with. This again is a situation similar to the Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra saga.
C. A fan is alleged to have made a racist comment which in recent times appears to be hitting the headlines. The way it has been dealt with recently is the match official reports it to the 4th official and match delegate. They then get in contact with the Stewards and security who with the use of cameras remove or highlight the person in question.
However at grassroots level it isn’t that easy.
In terms of actually seeing ad hearing a racist remark is hard enough especially if 2 players or club officials are going at each other as that usually means more and more people will become involved. If the culprit who you heard and saw racially abusing a player can be pulled out of the carnage once it has calmed down then they can be sent off and reported. This seems easy but when its one person in the middle who has to decide this it is likely to anger 10 others along with club officials and fans making the rest of the game harder to control.
If, as an official you hear nothing, at grassroots level there is nothing you can do but try to calm the player involved down and like I said earlier, you can report the incident but unfortunately you don’t normally get assistants so you can’t see and hear everything. Again this is probably going to make the rest of the game awkward and hard to control so I would be looking to keep play calm as much as possible. Control is essential here.
It becomes even worse if a fan racially abuses a player. Unless you have definitely seen the fan involved committing such a crime, then all you can do is ask the player in question to keep calm and explain you will be reporting to the league alleged racist abuse from fans. If however you do see a fan racially abusing the player, as the ref you have the power to have that person removed and the club is reported to the league and will face heavy sanctions
There is one other scenario which hasn’t been discussed. What happens if a ref is accused of racially abusing a player or is racially abused by a player. Personally I have been told if you are accused continuously to abandon the game and to let The FA decide.
If you are racially abused by the player the first thing you should do is send them off, then abandon the game. This means you get a chance to either note down their name or number (at lower levels names and numbers are hard to come by). Secondly you get to calm the situation down but I would always -straight away after sending the player off – abandon. It’s in the interests of your own safety and if you stayed, the person in question may come back for afters.