Former England internationals Graeme Le Saux and John Barnes will share their experiences of homophobia and racism within football at a summit with the prime minister today.
David Cameron will chair a discussion on racism in football which will also focus on divisive issues in sport.
Le Saux – a married man – suffered homophobic taunts throughout his career and was involved in a controversial flashpoint with Robbie Fowler in 1999 when Chelsea entertained Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
Barnes meanwhile has emerged as something of a poster boy for the Kick it Out campaign after a memorable snapshot of him flicking a banana away at Goodison Park in 1987.
Attendees include chairman of the FA David Bernstein, whilst representatives of the Premier League, the Football League, the Professional Footballers’ Association and the League Managers’ Association will also be in attendance.
Campaigners have already aired a warning to the prime minister ahead of the summit:
Mr Cameron is believed to be concerned at the abuse marring the Olympics this summer and how it may damage the image of the country’s sporting fraternity.
A No.10 spokesman said of homophobia in football: "It's obviously quite unlikely that there are no gay Premier League players and that tells you something about the tolerance within the game."
Racism in particular has been a hot topic in English football this season. Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United’s French full-back Patrice Evra during an October league game, and was hit with an eight-game suspension as well as a £40,000 fine.
Liverpool’s reaction during and following the verdict, in which they wore T-shirts in support of the Uruguayan, have been widely criticised. On Tuesday, a statement that displayed on the National Black Police Association (NBPA) website, read: “LFC actions… we believe could be considered as inciting racial intolerance”.
Ex-England captain John Terry will hear a racism charge in July after allegations that he racially insulted Queens Park Rangers’ Anton Ferdinand during Chelsea’s league defeat at Loftus Road in October. The delay of his trial and loss of the national captaincy eventually led to Fabio Capello’s resignation as England coach.
Capello’s interim replacement, Stuart Pearce, apologised for racially abusing Manchester United’s Paul Ince as a player almost 18 years ago, and his brother is a paid-up member of the British National Party.
There have also been reports of racism at Premier League grounds such as Anfield, Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium and Old Trafford. Yesterday, Uefa opened disciplinary proceedings against Porto over allegations that their supporters aired monkey chants at Manchester City’s black players.
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