Theo Walcott's family Will Not Travel to Ukraine for Euro 2012 - Fear Racist Abuse/ Violence

Remember that idea we once had about kicking racism out of football?

Well, it’s starting to feel rather quaint.

It has come to something when families of England players feel it’s not safe to go and watch their sons play for their country. But that’s what’s happening now.

Theo Walcott’s dad, Don, and brother, Ashley, had booked flights and accommodation to see him play in the Euros.

Then they read reports and studied television programmes about racism in Ukraine. They cancelled the trip.

Theo Walcott

Don is not faint-hearted. Far from it. He watched Theo score a hat-trick against Croatia in Zagreb when he was the only black man in the stand.

But he felt this was a risk too far and who can blame him? Not Amnesty ­International, for a start.

“Fans and families visiting Ukraine for Euro 2012 have good cause to be concerned about their safety – ­particularly those of a racial minority,” the organisation said.

As if ultra-right football hooligans weren’t enough to contend with, visitors will need to be on the lookout for a corrupt and brutal police force known to target ­individuals because of their skin colour.

In one recent case, police pulled over an ethnic ­Azerbaijani and drunkenly beat him with batons for several hours while shouting racial abuse at him.

The officers took it in turns to beat him after each became tired.

There are issues a lot closer to home, too, issues that have upset other families of other black England players.

Rio Ferdinand

Some were appalled when they heard Rio Ferdinand had been left out of the Euro squad and even more shocked by the reaction of their families.

Their families, like the parents of so many current black or mixed race players, had suffered appalling racial abuse when they were raising their children.

They thought things had improved but then they watched in horror at some of the developments in English football this season. They saw QPR’s Anton Ferdinand subjected to death threats and sent a bullet through the post because he was the victim of alleged racist abuse from Chelsea captain John Terry.

They saw Rio taunted and jeered and booed every time he touched the ball at Stamford Bridge just because he was the brother of someone who had suffered alleged racist abuse.

Patrice Evra

They saw Manchester United’s Patrice Evra booed and jeered by some Liverpool fans at Anfield because he had been racially abused by Luis Suarez.

And then, when it seemed that for the sake of squad unity, only one of Rio or Terry could go to the Euros, they saw Rio take the fall.

That brought a lot of the bad memories flooding back.

“I thought we’d made ­progress,” a relative of one of the players who did make the squad said yesterday. “I’m not so sure any more.”

The players in the England squad meet up for the first time today in Manchester to prepare for ­Saturday’s warm-up match in Norway.

There is no suggestion that there is a feeling of rebellion among the black players in the squad about the Ferdinand decision.

But there is an increasing ­militancy borne of disillusionment at the turn events have taken this season.

And there is a wider bitterness about the perception that those who dare to speak out against racism are punished for it.

After what has happened to Evra and the Ferdinand brothers, why would any black player in their right mind make a stand again?

Even something as harmlessly progressive as the Rooney Rule – which requires National Football League teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior opportunities – is met with a torrent of foul abuse when the idea of implementing it in English football is floated.

Terry Connor - Wolves Manager

The idea of merely allowing a black or ethnic minority candidate to put his case for a job is shouted down and ridiculed. Fear and anger are everywhere.

Black players and ex-players are subjected to disgusting levels of abuse on Twitter.

And next month, a father will not be able to watch his son play for England because of the colour of his skin.

Sometimes, it feels we’re heading right back to where we started.