Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt warns on football racism

 

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said 'huge strides' had been made tackling racism in football

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Football should avoid complacency when it comes to tackling racism in sport, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

He said huge strides had been taken on the issue but David Cameron was concerned the situation did not "go back to the bad old days".

The culture secretary told the BBC he is due to meet the prime minister to discuss racism and behaviour in football.

Mr Cameron plans a summit on racism in football later this month.

The prime minister will hold talks with governing bodies and players' representatives after a series of high-profile incidents.

'On our mettle'

On Saturday, Liverpool forward Luis Suarez was criticised for refusing to shake hands with Manchester United's Patrice Evra before the match between the teams.

Suarez was banned for eight matches after racially abusing Evra in October. He later apologised for not shaking hands in a statement released on the Liverpool website on Sunday.

On racism, Mr Hunt told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: "We have made huge strides, in fact I would say as a society one of the reasons we have made huge strides in changing attitudes to racial discrimination is because of the changes in football."

But he said the lesson of the last couple of months was that there was no room for complacency.

The cutural secretary said they needed to be "on our mettle at making sure the football authorities and the government continue to do everything we can to stamp out this problem".

He said the decision to strip John Terry of the England captaincy was one for the Football Association, but he supported this.

'Unsporting behaviour'

"A principle is more important than any one person and it's incredibly important for the future of the game that the FA deal decisively and clearly with these issues as they did with [Luis] Suarez," he said.

"But John Terry is innocent until proven guilty and we must wait to see what the courts decide."

Mr Hunt said headlines from Saturday's match between Manchester United and Liverpool were "incredibly depressing".

He said: "It was very unsporting behaviour. I'm sure the FA will look into whether any rules were broken. I thought the referee handled it brilliantly, it was an incredibly tense and difficult situation."

Mr Hunt also defended doubling the budget for the opening and closing ceremonies of the London Olympics in times of austerity.

The culture secretary said: "This will be the biggest, longest ad for our country in our history. This is the time to bang the drum for all that's brilliant about our country."

'Kick it out'

At a charity reception last month, Mr Cameron said: "My message is clear. We will not tolerate racism in Britain.

"It has absolutely no place in our society. And where it exists, we will kick it out.

"Our football governing bodies, clubs and footballers themselves have a vital role to play as role models in this respect.

"It's vital too that more coaches and managers from black and minority ethnic groups make it to the top of the game and I know the Premier League among others are working hard to try and make this happen."

In an FA Cup match a fortnight ago, QPR defender Anton Ferdinand was spared having to decide whether to shake the hand of John Terry when the Football Association allowed the teams to forego the ritual.

That match was the first meeting of the London clubs since Terry was alleged to have racially abused Ferdinand during a Premier League match in October - a charge he denies.

 

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