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English and Scottish football urged to tackle anti-Irish racism

By Damian Spellman

Campaigners have urged the English and Scottish Football Associations to tackle anti-Irish racism after James McClean and Neil Lennon were targeted by supporters.

Stoke midfielder McClean received a warning from the Football Association on Monday for language used in an angry Instagram response to fans who abused him for not wearing a Remembrance Day poppy.

It came after his club's Sky Bet Championship draw with Middlesbrough on Saturday. The Derry native has received constant abuse for his refusal to wear a poppy out of respect for the victims of Bloody Sunday.

The incident came just days after Hibernian manager Lennon - who called time on his playing career with Northern Ireland after receiving death threats - was hit by a coin during the Edinburgh derby.

Now the Professional Footballers' Association of Ireland and Show Racism the Red Card in both the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom have urged the game's respective governing bodies to get tough with offenders.

Their joint statement, reported yesterday, called for a "more robust approach" to combat "anti-Irish" abuse faced by players like McClean and managers such as Lennon.

"Racism on the basis of colour, nationality, religion or ethnicity is not acceptable and all within the game have a responsibility to respond appropriately," it said.

"James McClean has stood in solidarity with team-mates who have experienced racism and spoken out. We stand in solidarity with James McClean, Neil Lennon and all those who experience racism.

"We call on both the Football Association in England and the Scottish Football Association to investigate all incidents of anti-Irish discrimination."

McClean branded spectators who confronted him at the weekend as "uneducated cavemen" in this latest incident and expressed his unhappiness that the FA was investigating his comments.

The FA has since issued a warning to McClean but will not take any further action, adding that any "discriminatory language or behaviour aimed at any person or persons of nationality or faith" - including that directed at the Republic of Ireland player - was "unacceptable".

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