Football pundit and former England star Gary Neville has pointed to Boris Johnson’s rhetoric around immigration as “fuel” for incidents of racism both on and off the pitch.
His comments came after allegations of racist abuse by a Manchester City supporter during Saturday’s Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium.
A video circulating on social media appeared to show a fan aiming monkey chants towards Manchester United players during their 2-1 victory.
The Football Association (FA) quickly confirmed they were investigating the allegations, and on Sunday morning Greater Manchester Police said a 41-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of a racially-aggravated public order offence.
He remains in custody for questioning.
Speaking after the game, Neville – who works for Sky Sports – said: “You are watching the prime minister’s debate where a prime minister is talking about migration to the country and people having to have certain levels. It fuels it all the time.
“Essentially, it’s something that’s got worse in the last three years in this country and not just in football.”
In the wake of the allegations City swiftly issued a statement saying the club was working with Greater Manchester Police and the FA was planning to talk to the clubs, referee Anthony Taylor, the police and other relevant parties.
It is understood that United reported the incident to City and Taylor, with more than one of their players feeling they had abuse of a racist nature aimed at them.
There were also reports of missiles being thrown as tempers boiled over in the stands, with Fred appearing to be hit by an object hurled from the crowd as the visitors prepared to take a corner.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: “Fred and Jesse (Lingard) were in the corner, taking a corner, and I’ve seen the video, heard from the boys.
“We keep talking about it every bloody week. But he’s been caught on camera. He should, in my opinion, never be allowed into a football ground again and I’ve seen the video. Unacceptable.”
City’s statement read: “Manchester City FC are aware of a video circulating on social media which appears to show a supporter making racial gestures during the second half of the match against Manchester United this evening.
“Officials from the club are working with Greater Manchester Police in order to help them identify any individuals concerned and assist with their enquiries.
“The club are also working with GMP regarding an instance of objects being thrown onto the field of play.
“The club operates a zero tolerance policy regarding discrimination of any kind, and anyone found guilty of racial abuse will be banned from the club for life.”
Fred said the alleged incident at the Etihad showed “we are still in a backward society”.
“On the field, I didn’t see anything. I saw it only in the locker room afterwards,” the former Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder told ESPN Brazil. “The guys showed me. He even threw a lighter and it hit me. I try not to care about that. I try to look ahead.
“Unfortunately, this is happening in some stadiums. It happened here, it happened in Ukraine with some friends. It’s sad, but we have to keep our heads up and forget about that. We can’t give them any attention because that’s all they want. I spoke to the referee after the match, they will do something about it and that’s all.
“We are all the same regardless of skin colour, hair and gender. We came from the same place and we all go to the same place when it’s all said and done. Thank God I have a lot of friends here in the locker room who hugged me, like Lingard. I don’t want to think about it. I just want to move on.”
Kick It Out, an organisation campaigning for equality in football, said they had been “inundated” with reports of a racist incident during the match.
On Sunday afternoon, a spokesperson for Kier Group confirmed that an employee had been suspended in relation to the incident.
The message, posted to Twitter, read: “Kier has a zero tolerance policy towards any racist and discriminatory behaviour. We can confirm an employee has been suspended pending an investigation.”