Ron Atkinson quits ITV after his racist remarks are heard on air

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The Independent Online

Football pundit Ron Atkinson has resigned from ITV Sport for making racist remarks after Chelsea's Champions League match with Monaco on Tuesday.

Football pundit Ron Atkinson has resigned from ITV Sport for making racist remarks after Chelsea's Champions League match with Monaco on Tuesday.

Atkinson is understood to have referred to Chelsea's Marcel Desailly as a "fucking lazy nigger" in an off-air conversation with commentator Clive Tyldesley after the end of the game, which Chelsea lost 3-1. The conversation was thought to have been heard on Middle East channels which continued to broadcast the live feed after the final whistle.

Atkinson, 65, a former manager of Aston Villa, Manchester United and Athletico Madrid, apologised for the remarks last night. He said: "I made a stupid mistake which I regret, it left me no option to resign.

"At the moment ,I can't believe I did it. It was just a moment of stupidity. I was very frustrated at the end of the game because I thought Chelsea could have won. I regret making the comments and I apologise to anyone I may have offended."

An ITV spokesman said: "We do not in any way condone the comments in question which were not broadcast as part of ITV's coverage but were made in an off-air conversation after the game.

"It was a regrettable lapse by a respected and experienced broadcaster who has been part of the ITV sports team for many years. We have discussed the situation with Ron Atkinson, who is devastated and very sorry for any offence caused by his comments. He immediately offered his resignation which we have accepted."

Atkinson's career in football began when he joined Aston Villa in 1956. After failing to make the grade at the club he supported as a boy, he was transferred to Oxford United, where - as a muscular centre half - he became known as the "Tank", playing more than 400 times for the club.

As a manager, successful spells with lower league sides Kettering and Cambridge led to him being offered the job at West Bromwich Albion in 1978.

At a time when many clubs had an entirely white playing staff, he became a champion of black players, signing Laurie Cunningham, Brendan Batson and Cyrille Regis. Atkinson said last night: "If you look at my track record as a manager, I was one of the first managers in the game to give black players a chance."

In 1981, he moved to Manchester United, where he enjoyed the best spell of his managerial career, winning the FA Cup in 1983 and 1985. When he was replaced by Alex Ferguson in 1987, he returned to West Brom and after a brief spell at Athletico Madrid, won the League Cup with Sheffield Wednesday in 1991 and Aston Villa in 1994.

Since retiring from his last management job at Nottingham Forest in 1999, he has worked as a summariser on ITV's Champion's League coverage and On The Ball programme for several years, and is also a columnist for The Guardian newspaper.

In a statement last night, the newspaper said: "We take this matter extremely seriously and will be talking to Ron Atkinson at the earliest opportunity."

Atkinson's fondness for gold jewellery and year-round tan have earned him the nickname "Champagne Ron" or "Mr Bojangles" and, as a commentator, he has always mixed astute tactical analysis with a sometimes impenetrable but entertaining argot which has become known as "Ronglish". Phrases such as "early doors" and "giving it eyebrows" and have spawned websites in honour of the jargon.

A spokeswoman for the Commission for Racial Equality said: "Obviously it's disappointing that someone in a position such as his should make those comments,but he has resigned - he has done the right thing."