It's time to stop this

Tiger Woods and his caddie Steve Williams in happier times. Since the moment the two had parted ways Williams has left no one in any doubt as to his opinion of Woods; buddy buddy they are not.-PICS: AP

Tiger Woods' former caddie Steve Williams made a remark at a private dinner so that his words were heard by very few which included a reference to Woods' colour and was therefore deemed to be racist. Over to Ted Corbett.

So much clamour has been raised by four men being sent to prison for spot-fixing in cricket that the wider subject of racism in sport has slipped not just under the radar but under the carpet.

More's the pity because there have been so many prominent examples recently that it is about to be the issue of the year.

The trouble is, in part, that much of it has come about quietly, without witnesses or maybe just one witness and too many of the cases are what Scottish law might describe as not proven.

At a time when steps are being taken almost daily to combat racism, with apparently wholehearted support from the most famous players in every sport, it is clearly a problem not yet solved.

Internationally, the most famous racist moment — now publicly admitted and apologised for — came from Steve Williams, the sacked and therefore bitter caddie to that once famous golfer Tiger Woods.

Woods, who rode at the top of the golfing world for so long that he forgot the ordinary decencies of life, played the field instead of sticking to a wife so blonde and beautiful that many a man might have given his right arm just for a short conversation with her, and discovered that once he had been exposed his golf and his life withered.

Not surprisingly, he sought reasons and answers to the fact that his driver no longer landed the ball in the tiny target area he picked out and that his putter, rather than burning bright, became as inaccurate as a football coated in winter mud.

Eventually he decided that it might be his caddy, who had helped him to win millions of dollars, who might be at fault. I imagine their parting was conducted in terms that made all-out war seem like an armistice. Sports people are apt to speak their minds with plenty of vulgarity and if Williams' farewell was a happy one I am much mistaken.

Since that moment Williams has left no one in any doubt as to his opinion of Woods; buddy buddy they are not.

More trouble...Chelsea's John Terry exchanged a few comments with QPR's Anton Ferdinand recently during a English Premiership match. Only a lip reader will be sure what he said to Ferdinand who claims it was a racist insult.-

Finally he made a remark at a private dinner — remember that: a private dinner — so that his words were heard by very few which included a reference to Woods' colour and was therefore deemed to be racist.

His anger is understandable, the fame of golfer and caddy made it newsworthy and he has said sorry. It should be the end of the story but two more instances of words of a similar nature mean it will echo for a while to come.

In my country there is an on-going row over what John Terry, captain of mega-rich Chelsea and aspiring England said when he clearly exchanged a few comments with Anton Ferdinand, brother of Rio Ferdinand, also once captain of England, when Terry was stripped of his job after another fall from grace.

Terry is constantly on the back pages of the papers and often on the front pages; he and controversy are as nearly wed as makes no difference.

Only a lip reader — and a quick one at that — will be sure what he said to Ferdinand who claims it was a racist insult. Terry denies this charge but both the police and the Football Association are investigating. Rival fans chant the insults and in a game with a policy backing racial harmony the atmosphere has become toxic.

Once again the audience for their chat was small since Terry and Ferdinand were standing toe to toe and eyeball to eyeball in the middle of the pitch and only they can be sure of its entire content clearly conducted in the heat of the match.

Football is in any case played under a set of rules known only to those who take part. My favourite football writer swears he played throughout the 1980s and 1990s and never heard a racist remark in a dressing room, at a social event or on the field.

It is remarkable if true, particularly as footballers are known to have a drink from time to time but my guess is that a degree of racism may have been covered up. Bust-ups happen in all walks of life; why not in sport.

I remember being in an editorial room 35 years ago when there was suddenly a loud yelp and we saw that one of the junior bosses had picked up a spike — intended to be the final resting place of unwanted stories, typed on paper in those pre-computer days — and used it to fasten his nearest colleague's hand to the desk. No action was taken although I guess if journalism attracted the same attention as it gives to football the story might have been front page and back page news.

I hope that the cases will be fully investigated just to demonstrate that sport does care about friendship between the races and that these words will be less common in the future.

I am glad that I have spent most of my life reporting cricket where there are so many men of different colours that racial insults are rare. Some West Indies players were victims in Yorkshire where you might have thought the fans would appreciate their cricket ability and forget their colour.

No brave supporter confronted Viv Richards. If they had seen him angry — as I have — they would not have dared to be within arm's length of the man for he is a formidable adversary.