LONDON/PARIS: Piara Power, the anti-racism campaigner, has called on senior figures in international football to set a better example as Chelsea promised vigorous action against fans who prevented a black man boarding a train on the Paris metro on Tuesday.
He was blocked by what appeared, in another commuter’s video, to be a group of Chelsea fans travelling to the Parc des Princes for the 1-1 draw with Paris St Germain.
The match, deemed to be high risk by UEFA and Football Against Racism in Europe after a number of incidents surrounding last season’s fixture, took place in a week when former Italy coach Arrigo Sacchi said there were “too many black players” in Italian football.
Power, executive director o FARE, said: “We are seeing a lot of football leaders who are making racist comments.
“There’s a whole range of people in prominent positions in football who are making out and out racist comments. The comments by Arrigo Sacchi and before Sacchi we’ve had Carlo Tavecchio, Willy Sagnol, Dave Whelan, Malky Mackay. We’ve had John Terry, Luis Suarez.
“One feels that this is one of the things that keeps the link between racism and football alive.
“If these guys are prosecuted in a criminal court they might argue ‘well, we hear this going on at top level, why can’t we express similar sentiments?’
“This is the big challenge that football has: how do you deal with the big issue of racism at the top level, from football leaders across Europe, and therefore begin to unpick the wider issues of racism that we have?”
Powar believes the lack of ethnic minority individuals in senior positions in the game is also a contributory factor.
He added: “I also see a link between the lack of black and other ethnic minority leaders in football, so people don’t respect ethnic minorities, except as players. It’s about the wider picture at the moment.”
It has been suggested the Rooney Rule – used in the NFL to ensure ethnic minority candidates are adequately represented in the interview process for head coaching positions – should be applied in football.
Chelsea released a statement condemning the incident and adding: “Such behaviour is abhorrent and has no place in football or society.
“We will support any criminal action against those involved, and should evidence point to involvement of Chelsea season-ticket holders or members the club will take the strongest possible action against them, including banning orders.”
FIFA president Sepp Blatter, UEFA, the Football Association, Kick It Out, the Football Supporters’ Federation and Chelsea Supporters’ Trust all condemned the incident, which UK police are investigating.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the incident appeared to be “extremely disturbing and very worrying”.