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Racism still rife in football, says report

HEARING: John Terry (right) is to face an FA hearing on Monday (Sept 24) following last October's claims he racially abused Anton Ferdinand

RACISM is still a “significant problem” in football, a Parliamentary committee report says.

In today's (Sept 19) report, the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee said while there have been improvements, recent cases of racism and homophobic abuse on and off the pitch show that more still needs to be done to tackle it.

Recent race rows in the game include Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, who got an eight-match ban last season after an investigation into claims he called Manchester United Patrice Evra a “negro” up to 10 times.

In addition, Chelsea central defender John Terry is also expected to face a Football Association (FA) hearing on Monday (September 24) to answer charges he brought the game into disrepute following claims he called QPR defender Anton Ferdinand a “f***king black c**t” last October.

It is reported that Terry, who was cleared of racially aggravated public disorder by a court in July, plans to fight the FA charges.

The Committee report said changes to stamp out racism should include making sure there are more prosecutions of people guilty of racist abuse at the grassroots level and ensuring more ethnic minorities are recruited to top level roles such as referees and managers in the industry.

Committee members also said the Football Association (FA) should take the lead in stamping our racism and that other football authorities, supporters’ and players’ groups “need to take responsibility for pro-actively tackling all forms of discrimination, including racism”.

The FA, the committee said, must set a strong example for others to follow.

MP John Whittingdale, the Committee’s chair, 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.”

RACISM BAN: Luis Suarez (right) got an eight match ban after reports he called Patrice Evra "a negro" up to 10 times. Pic: PA

Committee members said transparent and consistent methods for reporting criminal behaviour including racism are still lacking, in particular at grass roots level.

They said the FA should make it a priority to develop procedures for stewards to follow and regular training opportunities to ensure that all relevant staff members at club grounds are capable of reacting swiftly and consistently to incidents of abuse.

Whittingdale said: “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.”

Football authorities and clubs should also be doing more to ensure that all appointments are based on merit alone irrespective of the candidates’ race, the report said.

Whittingdale said: "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.”

This is the “best and most equitable way to introduce greater diversity among football managers and on boards”, the committee said.

The committee report also recommended that football bodies, players and other stakeholders use social media to counter racist, homophobic and other forms of discrimination, especially as social networking websites have been rife with football related abuse.

Whittingdale said: “We heard evidence that 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.”

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