MPs Launch Racism Inquiry Following High Profile Football Incidents
Racism in sport is to be investigated by an influential parliamentary committee, it has been announced.
The Culture, Media and Sport Select committee confirmed it would look into the issue after a series of high profile race rows that have hit football in recent weeks.
England captain John Terry has been accused of racially abusing a player - a claim he strenuously denies - and Liverpool's Uruguayan star Luis Suarez has received an eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.
On Friday, Oldham defender Tom Adeyemi broke down in tears after apparently being subjected to racist abuse from a supporter in the stands at Anfield during an FA Cup clash with Liverpool. A 20-year-old man from Aintree has since been arrested and bailed over the incident last weekend.
A provisional date for the session has been set for 6 March and a committee spokeswoman said it is likely that witnesses will be called.
Steve Rotheram, Labour MP for Liverpool Walton and a member of the Committee, said: "I continue to support the Show Racism the Red Card initiative and believe, given the nature of recent events, that it would be appropriate for this issue to be looked at by parliamentarians from all parties and from different football, sporting and non-sporting allegiances.
"Sport should be rightly proud that in many ways it has led the field in tackling social issues such as racism, homophobia and sectarianism and it will be interesting to see what conclusions the select committee draw from the evidence session."
Another committee member, Damian Collins, told The Guardian: "I think the events of the last two weeks have reignited concerns about racism in the game. Although this session will not necessarily be restricted to football it will be the principal area of inquiry following the Suarez case and the concerns that have arisen from that."
Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock told the BBC that an inquiry had to have "real teeth", while his Labour colleague Ian Lucas said MPs could look at the matter with a degree of independence.
"That, I think, is causing problems for the FA and individual clubs, who can be seen as self-serving," he said.
Meanwhile, Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, whose club has been involved with two incidents, robustly defended the club's record on race relations and said: "We don't want racism anywhere near football and certainly not anywhere near this football club."
Reds striker Suarez has begun serving an eight-match ban for his racist abuse of Evra and the club have apologised to Oldham defender Tom Adeyemi over last Friday's incident.
The club were criticised in some quarters for their staunch defence of Suarez, with Liverpool players wearing t-shirts in support of the Uruguayan as they warmed up to play Wigan before Christmas, just after the eight-match punishment had been handed down.
He told the club's official website www.liverpoolfc.tv: "Over the past few weeks there has been a perception that the football club isn't doing what it should be doing, but I don't think the football club would ever go down that road. We will always support the official campaigns related to racism.
"Obviously there was a big issue with Luis. The players showed support for Luis which was fantastic, but then some people interpreted that wrongly as the players saying they're not interested in the fight against racism.
"That is totally and utterly rubbish. If we can help to eradicate racism or discrimination from any part of the society, with the help of anybody at Liverpool Football Club, then that help will be forthcoming.
"We don't want racism anywhere near football and certainly not anywhere near this football club."