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Footballers tackle racism

The TUC yesterday offered unanimous backing to their newly-reaffiliated union, the Professional Footballers' Association, by supporting calls for a nationwide campaign to kick racism out of football.

The PFA is back in the union fold for the first time since 1972 when it was suspended by the TUC. With black players representing 25 per cent of football's 2,000 registered professionals, racism is now a crucial issue among the ranks.

Gordon Taylor, the association's chief executive, told Congress: "It is now important to show the only colour that matters is the colour of a shirt."

Paul Elliot, the former Celtic and Chelsea defender, speaking outside the conference hall described how as a player he had suffered "monkey" chants and had bananas thrown at him from the terraces.

With racist groups such as the British National Party still regarding football grounds as ideal recruiting territory, the PFA's anti-racism campaign was seen by delegates as having a wider implication than just in sport.

Bob Purkiss, the Transport and General Workers' Union's national equality officer, who is himself black, said that in his earlier days as a football referee he found that: "When the bastard in the black is black you receive some very special treatment as well as a lot of fruit."

Earlier, delegates had applauded the "kung-fu" style "justice" meted out by the Manchester United player, Eric Cantona, to a football supporter who allegedly made racist remarks.

But Mr Purkiss, who is also a member of the Commission for Racial Equality, said: "Don't leave it to Eric Cantona who, unfortunately, due to the language barrier, thought we said kick the racist, not racism, out of football.''