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Calls for Government inquiry into football racism after match marred by abuse

Sports Minister Nigel Adams said he would be meeting with Tottenham’s directors on Monday to discuss the ugly incident.

Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger claimed he was targeted (Adam Davy/PA)
Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger claimed he was targeted (Adam Davy/PA)

By Patrick Daly, PA Political Correspondent

Calls have been made for the Government to open an investigation into racism in football after ugly scenes marred a Premier League clash.

The demand for a probe came following Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea’s derby match in which allegations were made that racist abuse was directed at a black player.

Spurs have vowed to investigate after Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger reported being targeted with monkey chants during the second half of his team’s 2-0 win at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium.

The Professional Footballers Association (PFA) said it was “dismayed and disgusted” at the claims of abuse in north London and pushed for a Government inquiry.

“The PFA calls for a government inquiry into racism and the rise in hate crime within football, and immediate and urgent action,” said the representative body.

Sports minister Nigel Adams confirmed he would be speaking with the club on Monday.

“Depressing to see today’s events at White Hart Lane,” he tweeted.

“I welcome Spurs investigation and will be speaking with the club’s directors tomorrow.

“There is no place for racism or any kind of discrimination in football or anywhere else.”

Labour said Premier League football clubs that failed to weed out racist fans should have to play at empty grounds.

Shadow sports minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan said: “Another instance of racism today. It wasn’t acceptable during Eng vs Bulgaria and it’s not acceptable now.

“If clubs don’t find perpetrators they should play matches behind closed doors.”

Tottenham MP David Lammy – tipped to run in the upcoming Labour leadership contest – said he was “appalled to hear about racist incidents by Spurs fans” and urged for the culprits to be “punished”.

After the incident was reported to referee Anthony Taylor, an announcement was read out three times via the stadium Tannoy stating that “racist behaviour among spectators is interfering with the game”.

In an impassioned plea following the clash, former England defender and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville said players should walk off the pitch if they heard racism emanating from the crowd.

The ex-Manchester United star pointed the finger at Britain’s two main political parties, the Conservatives and Labour, for allowing racism to prosper in their own ranks.

Boris Johnson’s Tories have been dogged by allegations of Islamophobia in recent years, and Labour has struggled to purge its membership of those accused of being anti-Semitic.

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Sky Sports commentator Gary Neville (John Walton/PA)

Neville said: “We have just had an election in this country where both main parties and the leaders of both main parties are accused constantly over the last month of fuelling racism and accepting racism within their parties.

“If it is accepted at the highest office in the country, we are not talking about it at a micro level – we are talking about it at an absolutely enormous level, the highest office in the country.

“We maybe have to empower the players to walk off the pitch and stop the entertainment while it’s happening because that’s the only way I can see it changing.”

After he made the comments, Sky Sports distanced themselves from the political nature of the criticisms, clarifying that they were personally-held views.

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor and devout Liverpool fan, echoed Neville’s calls for players to abandon matches in response to racism.

He tweeted: “I fully agree with @GNev2. The Premier League and FA have to start taking more effective action against home grown racism at matches in this country.

“We thought we had largely eradicated this scourge but there have been too many new incidences taking place in recent games.”

A spokesman for Tottenham Hotspur said: “Any form of racism is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our stadium.”

The club said it would take the “strongest possible action” against fans found to have engaged in abuse, including bans from the newly-built £1 billion stadium.

The Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport has been contacted for comment.

Following scenes of racist chanting when England played Bulgaria in a World Cup qualifier overseas, Prime Minister branded the culprits “vile” and said such behaviour had “no place in football or anywhere else”.

PA

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