Paul Elliott's experiences as a player spurred him to become an ambassador in the fight against racism - and after 20 years of working out ways of eradicating the problem from the game, he believes it is time to deliver.
The former Chelsea FC, Charlton Athletic FC, Celtic FC and AS Bari player, now an adviser to the UK Commission for Racial Equality, has worked tirelessly in his pursuit to stamp out the problem from football. Speaking to uefa.com at the recent pan-European uniteagainstracism conference in Barcelona, he pointed to education and new laws as key elements to success.
"I've been involved for the best part of 20 years," he explained. "It really all started from the experiences I had a player in the 1970s, 80s and 90s in England, Scotland and Italy. I felt that as I had been the victim of racism, I just wanted to give something back."
Elliott remembers his first experience of racial prejudice and admits he was shocked that it came from an opposition player: "It was on the pitch in the late 1970s and a player called me a racist name and I saw the look on his face and he was serious," he said. "I couldn't believe it, what do you do? I was mesmerised by it. That was where it all started for me."
Clubs have a role
The main goal now is to push through legislation at the European Parliament, making racism within the game punishable by law. Coupled with that, the former defender is determined to ensure that clubs play their roles in educating people in their local community. "In the United Kingdom we have been pro-active and we have involved the government and had government ministers making statements and condemning racism within the game.
Law and education
"The only way you are going to effect change, ultimately, is through the law and education and both those things can be done under the umbrella of a football club. Education can be done by clubs working in their local community."
Determined to impress
After hearing Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto'o say that they try even harder to impress when they are the victims of racist abuse, Elliott explained that he too played with that same determination: "I used to say you are not going to affect me, you're not going to hurt me. I used it in a positive way, not a negative way."
Changes in attitudes
Over the past 20 years, Elliott has seen a lot of changes in attitudes towards racism and prejudice within the game, but he is delighted with the progress that has been made. "We are now talking in an open forum, in the public arena, it is no longer swept under the carpet," he stated.
Moving towards legislation
"The key change during my time here is that we are moving towards legislation. We will make that happen and push it through at the EU. Football is just like any other workplace. Everyone who works in an office or anywhere else has the right to work in a racism-free environment. Nobody is above the law. There has to be law and legislation wrapped around racial discrimination. Now it is down to delivery and sustainability. Get that right and we are really on the right path."
©UEFA.com 1998-2013. All rights reserved.