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PM 'understands' concerns of Voice anti-racism campaign

LEADERS: Cameron and Chelsea captain John Terry

THE GOVERNMENT is keeping a close eye on the continuing controversies of racism in football and the apparent disillusionment of some at how the game’s governing bodies have handled the fallout.

Prime minister David Cameron is understood to want football authorities to take a more hardline approach in clamping down on racist incidents, like those of the past 12-months which have sullied the sport’s reputation.

The FA’s inconsistent punishment of John Terry in relation to the reprimand handed to Luis Suarez – the former was banned four games and fined £220,000, the latter eight matches and £40,000 – has been highlighted by figures such as Society of Black Lawyer’s (SBL) chair, Peter Herbert, who argue punitive measures are too lenient and that duration of bans should run “six to 12 months”.

The Conservative leader, who this week (November 5) embarked on a three-day tour of the Gulf and Middle East to promote products of British arms manufacturers – chiefly BAE Systems’ Typhoon jets, has already made efforts to create dialogue and break new ground on football’s racism scandals. In February, Cameron brought decision-makers in the game, including the FA’s chairman David Bernstein, together for an anti-discrimination summit that specifically discussed the Terry and Suarez incidents.

Downing Street is now adamant “a clear plan of action” must emerge from footballing authorities in order to prevent further alienation of the sport’s black and minority players, coaches and fans.

The Professional Footballers’ Association’s (PFA) recent six-point action plan, written off by Herbert as a “kneejerk reaction” to black players not wearing Kick It Out shirts, has not satisfied many – with talk of an independent union for black players still being mooted. Furthermore, SBL released their own 10-point plan in reaction to the PFA’s proposed measures, stating the PFA’s did not go far enough.

Aside from an independent union, the notion of introducing affirmative action to ensure black managers are guaranteed at least one interview spot when clubs seek to fill vacant managerial positions, a version of the NFL’s ‘Rooney Rule’, is favoured by SBL.

“The prime minister is clear that there is no place for racism in football”, a Downing Street spokesman told The Voice.

“A lot of work has gone into ridding racism from all aspects of our society, including football, but more work needs to be done as recent events have shown.

“That is why the prime minister brought the football authorities, former players and campaign groups together for a summit to discuss this earlier this year, and we now expect the football authorities to come forward with a clear plan of action on what more can be done to tackle racism in the game.”

Commenting on our ‘Enough is Enough: Get Onside campaign, the spokesman said: “We understand the concern from those who have signed up to The Voice's campaign. The Government is completely committed to working with the relevant football organisations to kick racism out of football for good.”

Cameron ordered the formation of a Culture, Media and Sport select committee to investigate racism in football. Its findings were published in a report on September 19.

On its date of publication, committee chair, John Whittingdale MP, said: “Much has been done to improve the atmosphere and behaviour at football matches and it has become a much more family-friendly activity.

“However, recent incidents of racist abuse in the UK, both on and off the pitch, have highlighted the fact that there remain significant problems. We heard evidence that social media has become a tool for the spread of racist and abusive content but it is also a potential means of combating the ignorance and prejudice that lie behind such behaviour.

“We believe that the football authorities should be using this developing forum for communication and debate, to spread positive messages about equality and diversity and also to speak out strongly against instances of racist abuse when they occur”, he added.

The Tory politician, who represents Maldon, touched upon an area the Rooney Rule would affect: “More needs to be done to increase the diversity of the pool of candidates for coaches and referees, to embed the values of equality and diversity at all levels of the game.

“While the general level of progress in combating racism and racist abuse in the UK is positive and should be applauded, there is much more that can and must be done, and we believe it is for the FA to take the lead and set the example for everyone, from football authorities at all levels to the grassroots groups, to follow.”

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