The gesture was in response to the club’s claim that Jeando Fuchs had allegedly been racially abused and prompted a rebuttal from the Highland club, who stated that the Tannadice gaffer’s actions had been irresponsible.
But, having highlighted just some of the online abuse he is routinely exposed to, Livingston assistant manager Marvin Bartley said he could understand Courts’ emotional response, arguing that previously measured approaches had done little to stamp out shameful slurs, and saying that it was time everyone took a stronger, more immediate stand.
“We are going backwards but things like that do make a difference. I genuinely think that the only way to deal with it is to call it out as it happens. I know that some people say that there is a lot of emotion at that moment but maybe emotion is what we need. We have tried the educating, and the more reasoned, calmer route, so maybe it is time to react more emotionally and say enough is enough. There’s no way we should just be ignoring it. If something happens we have to deal with it there and then.
“I’ve thought about it and social media has a lot to answer for. I know it’s now happening in the stands but that is because they have seen that they can behave like that on social media, where it is unpoliced, and they get away with it. It has emboldened them. So it’s no surprise.
“Some of the accounts have no followers and no previous posts, though, so people are obviously setting them up for this purpose, knowing they won’t get caught. The social media companies and the government should be doing a lot more but I won’t hold my breath. In football, clubs, FAs, UEFA, FIFA, all have to do more too.”
A whack-a-mole problem, where one incident after the next is condemned but never with a blow hard enough to pummel the issue into submission, Bartley says the time has come to wield a heavier hammer.
On the day when the Scottish FA revealed that they will be introducing more stringent sanctions for players who use racist or homophobic slurs, which could amount to a year-long ban, Bartley said he would go further and make adherence to a list of protocols part of the club licensing process in Scotland.
A man who has had to become inured to the disgusting abuse he receives from the stands and on social media, he says the incident involving Rangers’ Glen Kamara, against Slavia Prague, in March, was one of the few that broke through the emotional armour.
“When he was racially abused on the pitch, and I saw it for the first time coming from player to player, that wounded me the most. That was a lot worse than I ever thought it could be.
“Don’t get me wrong, there have been times when I was racially abused and it hit me hard, times when I felt emotionally and mentally drained by it. But I have great support around me.
“On social media I expect it and as horrific as the racial abuse I’ve received is, I’m emotionally disengaged with these messages. I can deal with it. We can’t let them win. No way!”
And, rather than just waving t-shirts, he is prescribing an even more decisive action from those involved in the game and those running it.
Revealing that a dressing room discussion at Livingston ended in unanimous support for a mid-match walk-off if any team-mate or member of staff was being subjected to abuse based on the colour of their skin, he said it was a course of action all clubs should be considering.
“I’ve been an advocate of walking off pitches for quite a long time because nothing else is working. It has to be an immediate response and it has to inconvenience people.
“If you look at the bigger games on television and the international games where players are going to certain countries and being abused, if teams walked off broadcasters would soon be saying: ‘We’re not paying to broadcast your games if your fans have a tendency to racially-abuse and after half an hour the game could be over’. And, sponsors are not going to pay for that either. Why would you put your hand in your pocket to sponsor a game that could end after 20 minutes. That’s when UEFA and FIFA will start coming down on clubs and FAs and telling them to get their house in order, because they’re being hit financially. That’s the only way that change will be made, when it starts to inconvenience the people at the top.”
Into an international break, where players know they will be flying into hellish racist hotspots, Bartley says that while he expects a prevalence of incidents, the truth is there is enough to despair of within our own borders.
“I fear all football at the moment, if I’m being honest, not just international games. If a person of colour makes a mistake, I know what will follow on social media and it’s now gone from making a mistake out there and being racially abused to simply being out there and being abused, often by your own fans.
“Listen, I feel I have achieved things in football that I can be proud of but I want to help to change society. Not just racism, but all forms or discrimination; sectarianism, issues with sexuality, I want to tackle it all.
“I don’t want the next Marvin Bartley to have to deal with all the same stuff that I’ve had to deal with. I’m hellbent on eradicating these problems from our society because the next generation needs a better pathway.”