Black England players abused by their own fans

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The Independent Online

Black football players in the England national side such as Andy Cole and Sol Campbell are being targeted for racist abuse by their own fans, a Home Office working group said yesterday.

Black football players in the England national side such as Andy Cole and Sol Campbell are being targeted for racist abuse by their own fans, a Home Office working group said yesterday.

A minority of England supporters were heard shouting racist insults at English black players during the recent friendly with France in Paris. Abuse was also directed at black French players.

Details of the incidents emerged yesterday as the Home Office unveiled a new working group with the task of coming up with ideas for preventing further hooliganism when English teams play overseas.

Chairman of the group, Home Office minister Lord Bassam, said the official England Members Club was itself a "profoundly white supporters club" which was tainted by racism. He said more needed to be done to encourage black and Asian supporters to travel with the national team.

The abuse by England supporters comes as black English players are increasingly becoming the targets of racist chants from opposing fans when they play overseas for their club sides.

On Tuesday evening, black Arsenal players were taunted during their club's game against Lazio in Rome. Similar abuse was directed at black Leicester City players by followers of Red Star Belgrade when the clubs met recently in Austria.

Sir Herman Ouseley, chairman of Kick It Out, a campaign to tackle racism in football, and a member of the new working party, said English football could not work to prevent such incidents abroad while such behaviour persisted among supporters of the national side.

"There is incessant abuse meted out to black players who play for England," he said. "The Football Supporters' Association themselves were disgusted by it."

The hooliganism working group also includes celebrity chef Delia Smith, who is a board member of Norwich City, former England midfielder turned pundit Trevor Brooking, as well as representatives of football supporters' organisations, the Football Association, the Football League and the National Criminal Intelligence Service, which monitors soccer hooliganism.

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