On any other night, England’s inept showing against Spain (and Wayne Rooney’s inexplicable meltdown) would’ve been the story, but sadly, this wasn’t the case. Throughout Wednesday’s friendly in Madrid, England’s black players were the targets of sickening racist chants, just a day after England’s Under-21 side received similar treatement. The Guardian’s Paul Doyle wonders why the visitors tolerated the abuse.

 The England team had a ready-made answer to the Spanish racists who piled into the Bernabeu last night to grunt monkey noises at their black players: to walk off the pitch in protest.

By doing so, Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side could have taken the lead in the fight against a malignancy that has infested stadiums all over Europe in recent years – a malignancy that Uefa has shown itself to be unable or unwilling to eradicate.

Whether the goons that make malevolent monkey chants are inspired by some warped creed or merely an ignorant fad, decent fans and players are entitled to ask why they have to suffer this nonsense in silence. It is time to act.

In cases where only a fistful of buffoons are guilty, the police should take action (whether they actually will or not is another matter). But when thousands are inciting or revelling in hatred, there’s not much the police can immediately do without risking a riot. So good old Gandhi-style peaceful protest is what’s called for – and the only ones who have the power to do that are the referee or the teams.

(Aside: it would be interesting to know if any members of the Spanish FA thought of using the PA system last night to appeal for an end to the taunts … or did they all take an Aragones-esque line that the racism is merely a clever motivational tactic).

Eriksson’s side have previously shown their solidarity by refusing en masse to talk to the media when press criticism breached basic rules of dignity and again, earlier this week, by pointedly wearing anti-racism T-shirts. If one player, or indeed the manager, had suggested taking a stand, there’s a strong chance all would have marched together. The result? Offending fans would have got some urgently-needed food for thought, and the Spanish FA and Uefa would have been forced to act.