The Football Association has raised concerns with Uefa over the prospect of England players being racially abused during this summer's European Championship. David Bernstein, the FA chairman, has discussed the issue with Uefa president Michel Platini and been promised that referees have "increased powers to deal with situations in matches".
Bernstein said yesterday that the FA had been "working on all sorts of contingency plans and preparing for all eventualities" should any England players be the subject of racial abuse at Euro 2012. Last week the UK's senior policeman in charge of footballing matters, Assistant Chief Constable Andy Holt, warned of the possibility of England players and supporters being racially abused in Ukraine, where England will play their three group games.
In the course of a meeting with Platini two weeks ago, Bernstein raised the subject; yesterday Bernstein told a Parliamentary inquiry into racism in football that Platini had assured him Uefa was taking the issue "very, very seriously".
"They have given referees increased powers to deal with situations in matches," Bernstein told the Culture, Media and Sport committee at Westminster.
When asked about Euro 2012, Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, told the same inquiry: "We've got a big worry with the European Championship."
Uefa insists it is taking steps to address the issue ahead of the tournament, which begins on 8 June. More than 80,000 police officers and stewards in Poland and Ukraine will be given "anti-discrimination training to help them identify discriminatory chants, symbols and behaviour," say Uefa.
Europe's governing body says sanctions have been provided to deal with any incidents. Under measures which were actually introduced in 2009, referees have the "power to abandon a match should racist behaviour occur in the stadium". In the extreme, that could result in the "awarding of a match by default, deduction of points or disqualification from the competition". Any player found guilty of abusing an opponent faces a minimum of a five-match ban.
England players have been on the receiving end of racist abuse during previous visits to eastern Europe. Last year the Bulgarian FA was fined €40,000 after Ashley Young, Ashley Cole and Theo Walcott were abused by the home support.
Uefa has been criticised for its response to previous racist incidents. Earlier this season Manchester City were fined €30,000 because their players came out late for the second half against Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League. That was €10,000 more than Porto were fined for their fans racially abusing City players in the previous round.
The on-going problem with racism at football grounds in Poland and Ukraine was highlighted this year when the respected campaign group Never Again, which is linked to the Uefa-backed group Football Against Racism in Europe, produced a report detailing 195 incidents of "racist and discriminatory behaviour" between September 2009 and March 2011.
Questioned about matters closer to home, Bernstein insisted yesterday that the FA had made the right decision at the right moment in choosing to strip John Terry of the England captaincy over his forthcoming trial for allegedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand.
"We got it spot on," said Bernstein, who made the decision with the unanimous support of the FA's board. "There was no point in making a premature decision because we believed the trials would be before the European Championship."
Yesterday's inquiry also focused on the problem of racism within the domestic game. After the ban for Liverpool's Luis Suarez and the on-going Terry/Anton Ferdinand case, Taylor believes young black players are wary of reporting incidents of racist abuse. There is a fear of receiving a "torrent of abuse" via Twitter and other social media if a player makes a complaint.
Taylor said: "I feel there is an element of belief among my younger black players that it's still, 'Hmm, I can make a complaint but...' There's been a worry that the Terry-Ferdinand incident has not been dealt with yet; there's been a worry about what happened with the Liverpool reaction. I've got a young generation of black players that are saying, 'We can't stand for this any more', and I'm feeling frustrated that we can't be a bit more effective in that process."
In the wake of the Suarez case the FA is to look at introducing "induction programmes" for players coming into this country to outline what is considered unacceptable in English football.
Race wars: Abuse for English players
12 Oct 2002, Slovakia v England
Ashley Cole and Emile Heskey were targeted by Slovakian fans during the Euro 2004 qualifier in Bratislava, leading to the Slovakian ambassador formally apologising to the Football Association. "To have the whole stadium shouting at you and making those gestures was frightening," Heskey said.
17 Nov 2004, Spain v England
Shaun Wright-Phillips and Cole were subjected to monkey chants in a friendly held at the Bernabeu. Fifa later fined the Spanish Foot-ball Federation a paltry £44,750.
17 June 2007, Eng U21 v Serbia U21
The FA made a formal complaint over the racist abuse from Serbian fans and players. Uefa investigated racist chants aimed at England's Nedum Onuoha, while Justin Hoyte was also targeted by an opposition player in the tunnel after the match.
10 Sept 2008, Croatia v England
Fifa fined the Croatian Federation £15,000 after monkey chants were aimed at Heskey in a World Cup qualifier in Zagreb.
10 Oct 2009, Ukraine v England
Visiting players complained of racist chanting during the World Cup qualifier in Dnipropetrovsk.
2 Sept 2011, Bulgaria v England
The Bulgarian FA was fined £32,000 following abuse directed towards Ashley Young during a Euro 2012 qualifier in Sofia.