'Crush racism' in football: PM
Swift action is required to "crush" any return of racism to football before it impacts on wider society, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.
The Prime Minister said he had seen for himself the influence that behaviour on the pitch could exercise over young children and others off it.
But, speaking at the opening of a Downing Street anti-discrimination summit with former players and football bosses, he expressed confidence that the good work of two decades in battling prejudice in the sport would not be lost.
Mr Cameron said: "If everyone plays their role, then we can easily crush and deal with this problem."
He told the panel, including former England stars John Barnes and Graeme Le Saux, that he often took his young son to local football matches and had seen the impact the game had.
Mr Cameron said: "What happens on the field influences what happens off the field. You see children as young as six imitating the behaviour they see on the field. So this is not just important for football, it's important for the whole country."
The event to promote a more "inclusive" sport comes amid fears that high-profile incidents are harming football's image. Earlier this month Liverpool forward Luis Suarez was forced to apologise for refusing to shake hands with Manchester United's Patrice Evra before the teams' match.
Suarez had only recently returned to action for Liverpool following a ban for racially abusing Evra during a game in October.
England star John Terry is due to face trial over the summer on charges of racially abusing QPR's Anton Ferdinand. Terry denies the charges.
The meeting is also looking at homophobia, with Amal Fashanu, who recently made a documentary about homosexuality in the sport 14 years after her footballer uncle Justin hanged himself, also among those attending.