Paul Elliott, one of football's leading anti-racist campaigners, who was made a CBE for his work against discrimination, has resigned his positions of responsibility at the Football Association after admitting using a derogatory racist term to another black man.
Coincidentally, the recipient was also a former Charlton Athletic defender forced to retire early from the sport, Richard Rufus. Last week Rufus said he had received a text message sent by Elliott which included several abusive terms, allegedly including the n***** word. Elliott initially claimed that it was less offensive when used between two black men but by yesterday he accepted that his positions with the FA and the anti-racist body Kick It Out were no longer tenable. He was a member of the Association's Judicial Panel and also a nominated member of Uefa committees.
The two men are reported to have fallen out over a business venture, which resulted in Elliott, 48, sending the text. Last night he issued a statement that said: "Earlier this week, a former friend and business colleague, made public a text message I sent him, in which I used a term which is widely known as being derogatory to my own community. I regret using it; it is inappropriate and not part of my everyday vocabulary. As an advocate of high-standards of public behaviour, and integrity in public life, I know the use of this word sends out mixed messages and contradicts my position as a Kick It Out trustee. I will continue to be active in other projects in what I believe to be a true and just cause."
The Football Association chairman, David Bernstein, said: "The use of discriminatory language is unacceptable, regardless of context. It has made Paul's position untenable. I wish to thank Paul for his dedicated and unstinting work, particularly in the area of anti-racism. I am saddened by this turn of events. It is with regret we accept Paul's resignation."
Playing much of his football in the Eighties, Elliott suffered racist abuse on the pitch during a career with Charlton, Aston Villa, and Chelsea amongst others. He played for England's Under-21 and B teams as a central defender. Forced to retire two years after suffering a knee injury in a game at Liverpool in 1992, he unsuccessfully sued Dean Saunders for the tackle and became a respected anti-racist campaigner and media pundit. He was awarded an MBE in 2003 and a CBE last year.
Rufus, 10 years younger, followed a remarkably similar career. Born, like Elliott, in south London, he too joined Charlton as a centre-half but stayed with them until also having to retire with knee trouble, aged 29. He helped Charlton reach the Premier League for the first time in 1998 and played there for several seasons with great distinction. A committed Christian, he has since faded from public view but is known to undertake charity work with former Charlton and Portsmouth player Linvoy Primus.