Racial abuse storm hits Premiership after Yorke taunt claims

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Dwight Yorke last night claimed he was the target of racial abuse from Blackburn Rovers supporters during the Premiership match at Ewood Park in the wake of the abuse England players were subjected to during last week's friendly against Spain in Madrid.

Dwight Yorke last night claimed he was the target of racial abuse from Blackburn Rovers supporters during the Premiership match at Ewood Park in the wake of the abuse England players were subjected to during last week's friendly against Spain in Madrid.

Yorke, who used to play for Rovers, told his manager Steve Bruce that he had been subjected to abuse by two home fans as he warmed up prior to his 74th-minute introduction as substitute in the 3-3 draw. "They racially abused him. Dwight is bitterly upset and angry," Bruce said. "It was something similar to the racist taunts the English players had and we just don't want to see it.

"Apparently it is monkey taunts and that is sick. It's all right him getting a bit of stick [because he is a former Blackburn player] but when it comes to what we've just seen in midweek, everybody is sickened by it." Rovers issued a statement: "We can confirm that a spectator was ejected for making what we understand to be a hand gesture towards Dwight Yorke. We will fully investigate the matter tomorrow as part of a full debrief with police and stewards and we will study all available CCTV footage."

The claims came hours after Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, said that he would have supported England's players if they had walked off the pitch in the face of the racial abuse suffered during last week's match.

In an extraordinary declaration, Blatter said: "Such a movement I would have understood. I would have supported their walking off. We have to maintain discipline and respect on and off the field. When such a threat is in football in the future I think it would be a good remedy."

Blatter was speaking after one of the England players who was targeted, Ashley Cole, said that he believed Spain should sack their coach Luis Aragones. "If you don't condemn it then you must condone it, so surely the Spanish FA must get rid of him," Cole said.

Aragones has been summoned by a Spanish government body to explain his remarks about Britain's colonial past on the eve of last Wednesday's match. He will be questioned tomorrow by the Comision Nacional Antiviolencia (National Anti-Violence Committee) as the pressure grows on the 65-year-old.

Blatter's intervention would suggest that Spain can expect a stiffer punishment than just a fine, possibly a ban. Blatter said that a Fifa investigation was ongoing and that he would not preempt its finding, but the strength of his statement is telling.

Blatter said that Fifa would also "give out a recommendation" as to what teams should do if they encounter racial abuse. He said he hoped "walk-offs" could be avoided but would understand if they happened.

There is the fear that by taking such actions players would be giving in to the racists, who could force a match to be abandoned if their team were losing or that teams could claim they were abused if they were in the same situation. "This would not be the case," Blatter said. "It would be a matter for the competitions committee to decide."

Many believe that the abuse suffered by England's players stemmed from Aragones telling Jose Antonio Reyes that his Arsenal team-mate Thierry Henry was a "black shit". The coach claimed this was his way of motivating the player. Henry said yesterday that it might be a "good thing" if the players had walked off, but added: "I'm sure some people would have given stick to the players if they did."

Arsenal's captain Patrick Vieira also attacked Aragones yesterday, saying: "He is taking Spanish footballers for idiots. He is taking all players for idiots. It does not stand up. It is pure hypocrisy. If we players are meant to set an example the coaches have a particular responsibility. They should not be allowed to make such remarks - especially when they are broadcast to young people."

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