Atkinson says his racist gaffe will cost him more than £1m

Ron Atkinson's notorious remarks about a black Chelsea footballer have cost him as much as £1m in cancelled contracts and lost sponsorship deals, he admitted last night.

Ron Atkinson's notorious remarks about a black Chelsea footballer have cost him as much as £1m in cancelled contracts and lost sponsorship deals, he admitted last night.

The flamboyant TV pundit was widely condemned last week after characterising Marcel Desailly as a "lazy fucking thick nigger" following a poor performance in the Champions' League.

Although intended as private, his microphone was on and the remarks were broadcast in the Middle East.

They have cost him dear. "Big Ron", a senior match summariser has lost his regular slot with ITV, said to be worth between £150,000 and £200,000 a year, and a column with The Guardian. He has also been dropped by soft drinks brand Britvic which was using him to front a competition in search of football's biggest gaffes.

An apologetic Atkinson, said, "I've offended nobody more than me at the moment. Christ almighty, it's cost me roughly a million quid."

A former top manager whose clubs included Manchester United, he traded heavily on his avuncular image and the mean-spirited remarks are particularly damaging.

Speaking to The Observer, he denied that he was a racist but accepted that he was "an idiot" for making comments. He still claims he cannot remember saying them.

"I've got to the end of the game and I am so angry. There's a commercial break from what I can remember and I'm just talking to myself. And to be fair I've been critical of several of the players. Then I've come out with this infamous line which to this day I don't remember saying. I didn't know anything about it till the next day.

"I've never, to my knowledge, used the word nigger before. But I can understand how much offence I have caused. If someone had said that about one of my players I'd have chinned him."

As the manager of West Bromwich Albion in the late 70s he was an early champion of black players, and plenty of people have been willing to back his record.

Gerard Houllier, Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Bobby Robson and Terry Venables have all rung to offer their support, he said. He also had a call from John Barnes, the former England international and himself a black player. "Barnsey said, 'Ron, you're not a racist, 'cause if I wanted a job and you were in a position to give it to me, you'd give it to me. People who are racists are the ones who look at you and go, "You're not getting the job". You've always proved who you are with your actions.'"

A former colleague, Carlton Palmer, has also come to his defence. "I'm black and I'm gonna stand up for Big Ron not because he's a friend of mine, I'm standing up for him because I know what he's like as a bloke," he said.

"If we're going to deal with racism then let's deal with the bigger picture of racism not about a throwaway comment that wasn't meant in that manner."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Creative Designer / Graphic Designer

Competitive: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Creative Designer / Graphic Design...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Executive / Marketing Assistant

£18 - 23k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Executive / Assistant is n...

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - ECommerce

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers' in retail...

Reach Volunteering: Volunteer Marketing/PR Trustee for South Thames Crossroads

Voluntary, resonable expenses paid: Reach Volunteering: South Thames Crossroad...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue