Racism is `rife' in amateur football

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The Independent Online
AMATEUR SOCCER has a growing problem with racist violence and intimidation against black and Asian players, according to a dossier handed to the Football Association.

As new laws came into force today to tackle racism in Britain's soccer grounds, the Let's Kick Racism Out Of Football campaign said the expanding problem of bigotry in school and amateur teams was not being properly addressed.

Details of many incidents have been presented to the Football Association, the Professional Footballers' Association and the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, Sir Herman Ouseley.

Paul Peart, a black amateur player based in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, said: "The only colour that should matter is the colour of our shirts."

Mr Peart's club, Leeds Road TRA, has disbanded after five years. He said: "The racism always seemed to start when we were winning. It was like they thought, `Let's rattle 'em, let's give 'em some abuse'."

He said there was a need for greater awareness among amateur referees who appeared intimidated by black players and brandished disproportionate numbers of yellow and red cards as they tried to stamp their authority on a game.

Taj Butt, a Bradford referee, agreed. After 20 years of taking abuse as a player, racism was a key factor in his decision to qualify as an official. He said: "There's a lot of work to be done in educating referees as to what it's like to be racially abused. Some see it as just part of the game. It is actually against the law."

At schools in Manchester and Birmingham, teachers have complained that black and Asian players in school teams have been racially abused by white parents of children in opposing sides.

From today the Football (Offences and Disorder) Act bans the use of racist language in football grounds.

Piara Powar, co-ordinator of Let's Kick Racism Out Of Football, said: "It is in the interest of professional football to do something about this, because many talented young players of the future are being forced to give up the game."