Former England international Glen Johnson has urged FIFA and UEFA to act to help stop racist abuse of players at football games.
Speaking on talkSPORT, the ex-Liverpool defender insisted it should not be left to the stars themselves to decide whether to leave the pitch or not if they hear abusive language, and says the authorities should make that decision instead.
Johnson was reacting to the news that Raheem Sterling was the targeted with racist heckles during England’s 4-0 victory over Bulgaria at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
The back pages on Thursday morning were splashed with stories claiming the Three Lions team are set for discussions about walking off the pitch in defiance if they hear any abuse in their return trip to Bulgaria in Euro 2020 qualifying.
The Football Association fear their players could face similar treatment to the abuse they suffered when they faced Montenegro earlier this year, when Sterling, Danny Rose and Callum Hudson-Odoi were the subject of chanting from home fans.
Johnson says he wouldn’t leave the field as he believes that would ‘let the racists win’, although said he would support his other team-mates if they wanted to.
But he believes players shouldn’t even have to make that decision if abuse from the crowd is so obvious.
Speaking to talkSPORT hosts Jim White and Natalie Sawyer, he said: “A fan got chucked out for racially abusing Raheem and I think a few guys are expecting something similar in the next game.
“There’s a lot of talk now about whether the lads are going to walk off the pitch, but to be honest I don’t think the players should have to make that decision.
“I personally wouldn’t want to walk off, because at the end of the day you want to do your job and play the game. By walking off you are kind of letting them win, because all they’re trying to do is get to you.
“But if my team-mates did, I would support them and we would all walk off together.
“The point is, the players should still be protected. Somebody else should make that decision, because if Raheem can hear it, everyone can hear it.
“But I think it should be someone above, maybe someone from UEFA. If anyone can hear that sort of abuse, they should be the ones to stop the game and usher the lads off the pitch, so that the pressure is not on the players to make that decision.
“You know what it’s like, if they do walk off half the people out there are going to criticise them and the other half will support what they’ve done, so either way they’re not going to really win.
“I just think the pressure should be taken away from them, that if anyone hears it then somebody above can make the call to stop the game and take the heat off the lads a little bit.
“At the end of the day, all they want is to play football and if the lads can hear it, the officials can hear it. It’s as simple as that.”