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UK Politics

MPs back Blatter resignation calls


Fifa president Sepp Blatter came under fire in Westminster today as he was condemned for his remarks about racism in football.

Mr Blatter is facing calls for his resignation after claiming that racism on the pitch is not a problem and that racist abuse between players should be settled by a handshake.

Sports minister Hugh Robertson led calls for Mr Blatter to resign, saying: "This is incredibly serious but it is part of a pattern of behaviour."

Asked whether Mr Blatter should go, he told BBC Radio Five Live: "Yes. I can't see there's anything terribly new in this. We've been saying this for some time."

Labour leader Ed Miliband also weighed into the row, branding Mr Blatter's comments a "disgrace" and saying that world football needed new leadership.

"I think Sepp Blatter's comments are a disgrace frankly and I think that football needs new leadership," Mr Miliband said.

"I don't think he has shown in the remarks he has made recently, or indeed his record, that he can provide that leadership for world football."

Mr Blatter was embroiled today in a Twitter war-of-words with Rio Ferdinand.

The Manchester United defender contacted Blatter's Twitter account directly, writing: "Sepp Blatter your comments on racism are so condescending its almost laughable. If fans shout racist chants but shake our hands is that ok?"

The England player also criticised FIFA's attempts to clarify Blatter's comments with a statement on their website underneath a picture of Blatter with South African minister Tokyo Sexwale, who was imprisoned on Robben Island during the apartheid era.

Ferdinand wrote: "Fifa clear up the blatter comments with a pic of him posing with a black man..I need the hand covering eyes symbol!!"

Blatter was stung into a response today and replied directly to Ferdinand saying: "The 'black man' as you call him has a name: Tokyo Sexwale. He has done tremendous work against racism and apartheid in Africa.

"We have done several joint activities to raise awareness on the struggle against racism in South Africa. FIFA has a long standing and proud record in the area of anti-discrimination which will continue."

Labour's Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said he was "appalled" by Mr Blatter's comments.

He added: "We cannot have as the head of the body governing world football a man who believes that racism is acceptable if followed by a handshake.

"I fully support Rio Ferdinand speaking out against his views, and encourage others both within the game and outside it to do the same.

"Mr Blatter should resign and make way for someone who understands these issues."

Lord Ouseley, chairman of football's Kick It Out anti-racism campaign, said Mr Blatter's comments show that he does not know what he is talking about.

Lord Ouseley said: "He has no understanding of what racism is, the ideology behind it, the damage it causes and how it subjugates one group of people as inferior.

"Enlightened leadership at this level is needed.

"Minor matters on the field often can be resolved with a handshake. Racism is not a minor matter.

"Kick It Out has no truck with the notion that racism can be dismissed and trivialised in this way."

Lord Ouseley noted: "To say Sepp Blatter's comments are unhelpful is an understatement. They're disbelieving."

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "It's appalling to suggest that racism in any way should be accepted as part of the game.

"A lot of work has gone into ridding racism from all aspects of our society, including football.

"As many of our top sports stars have rightly pointed out, now is not the time for complacency."