Watford Football Club have announced their own anti-discrimination campaign, in conjunction with the Hertfordshire Police hate crime unit in a bid to combat racism and discrimination. 

The club’s new ‘We’ campaign has been launched as a means for the club to stand up to any prejudiced behaviour on their own without the help of external bodies.

Captain Troy Deeney is fully behind the campaign and said enough is not currently being done within the sport to support victims of discrimination.

After last season’s FA Cup semi-final Deeney was one of a number of Watford players to receive racist abuse via social media and he said the reaction from that showed why such a campaign is necessary.

“The fact that you see it on a regular basis and that we feel we need to do a campaign says enough in itself doesn’t it?” said the skipper.

“I’m not discrediting any of the work that Kick it Out or any of the other guys have done, I know they make massive strides to try and make things better in terms of equality, but we feel that especially after the semi-final for example, there was no follow up, there was no representation in terms of people coming and speaking to us directly about how that affected us.

“I’m not just talking about the racism, but I’m talking about Ben Foster getting death threats and things like this - no one came and asked the question, no one followed up on it.

“We really took it upon ourselves to try and close the circle in terms of the reaction, in terms of racism and abuse, whichever way you want to call it.

“We want to turn it into reporting it, into linking up with Herts police hate crime unit to finish it off and show people our results at the end of it.”

As well as wanting more support for victims of discrimination, Deeney wants to see a greater deterrent in place to prevent prejudiced behaviour.

In the wake of incidents involving England players being abused in Bulgaria and Haringey Borough players walking off the field following abuse in an FA Cup game, the Hornets striker bemoaned a lack of consistency and severity in punishment.

“We have seen people take a stand and fair play to everybody,” he said.

“But it shouldn’t get to the point where people have to take a stand, there’s still not a set punishment.

“If you’re a racist what’s the punishment? It’s up and down. It depends on who you said it to, where you said it, was it caught on camera? Did it get enough media attention? All these different things. We need to put a set individual rule in and that shouldn’t be difficult for the powers that be that introduced 20 odd new rules in this year.

“Can they not put in a rule that says any hate crime or discrimination will receive something as a minimum? As a deterrent at least? But we haven’t done that.

“We do all these changes to make the game better on the field, VAR et cetera, yet we can’t add anything for that, it just baffles me a little bit.

“There’s no easy answer, there’s no quick fix and it is an education and a generational thing that we’re going to have to learn to put out of society not just in football, but if we’re sitting around saying football doesn’t play a massive part in UK culture, we’re being very naive.”

To help people better understand the ‘We’ campaign, Watford have put forward a a six-point list of what it stands for.

The plan consists of the following statements: “We means everyone; players, ex-players, staff, fans, the local community. We will be heard and seen much better if everyone is involved together. We can make a difference by being different. We want to tackle all forms of hate crime - on all days, not just matchdays. We will take all reports seriously and act quickly to get meaningful results. We are partnered with the police’s Hate Crime team and welcome them today.”

The partnership with Herfordshire Police hate crime unit is something the club and the police themselves hope will help allow people to not only feel safer in their community, but also confident that something will be done about any discriminatory behaviour.

Sgt Luke Mitchell, the community safety sergeant for Watford and Three Rivers, said: “We’re really pleased to be working together with Watford Football Club on this project, which will ensure we continue to eliminate hate crime not only in sport, but from our communities. The message is clear: Watford welcomes everyone and is a safe place to live and visit.

“We want people to enjoy watching football and visit our town knowing that it is a safe and friendly environment, where hate crime in all its forms – race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity – is not tolerated.”

He added: “On the rare occasion something does happen, you should be reassured that Watford FC and Hertfordshire Constabulary will work together to ensure you’re supported and positive action is taken. Everyone, from the playing staff to police, stands united against hate crime.”

The Premier League have recently began their own No Room for Racism campaign this month, with banners being displayed before matches and adverts being run during live broadcasts.

However, Deeney feels such efforts are not good enough and that it could take drastic action from a big team in order for the issue to be taken as seriously as it needs to be.

“As a club we feel we’re going to try and do something and be ahead of it,” he said.

“We just took it on ourselves, again it’s player-lead, which I think is important. We were watching the TV now, Sky Sports is on showing that ‘No Room for Racism’ - do you think you’ll still see that in January?

“Will the issue be gone by January? It becomes laughable at times. As of now, it’s a hot topic and there’s room for debate and for people to talk about it, but then it’ll get blown under the carpet again.

“It probably needs a bigger team than us to do it. It needs a Man United, it needs an England, it needs a team with absolute global appeal.

“It would need something like that to the point where everyone goes ‘that can’t be right’. That’s what it’s going to need.”

Another player who showed support for the campaign was defender Christian Kabasele, who said there was often a lack of understanding around racism, citing incidents in Italy and speaking from his own experience, the defender told Sky Sports more needs to be done.

“There’s a lack of understanding and respect. When you saw what the fans of Inter said about this [racist abuse aimed at Romelu Lukaku] they just don’t get it. For them it’s just a way to make the opponent lose their head, but it’s not right, it’s not the right thing to do.

“It’s a serious thing to do, making monkey chants in a stadium, and we need to take this problem seriously and it’s up to the federation afterwards to find the right punishment, it’s as simple as that.

“Here in England on social media, in Belgium and Bulgaria on the pitch. You try to keep your head cold and try to not overreact but it’s not easy. Being treated as an animal, it’s very hurting and until the federations take the right punishment we will still have this problem. It’s horrible. The only thing to do as a player is report as much as possible”