Ferguson fears that racism is returning

United manager mystified by recent cases and wants any abuse to be tackled now

Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, has made his first contribution to the debate on the re-emergence of racism in football, suggesting four days before Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez face each other again at Old Trafford that he does believe the issue is returning to the game.

With the Football Association expecting Manchester United and Liverpool to abide by a commitment not to inflame tensions before the sides meet again on Saturday lunchtime, Ferguson said that the re-emergence of the prejudice which beset the game 20 years ago has mystified him.

"I don't understand at all where it's coming from, to be honest with you, I don't understand it at all," Ferguson said. "This is a moment where we have to take stock and we should do something about it if it's surfacing again, and be really hard and firm on any form or shape of racism. There have been a couple of examples recently which is not good. In 2012, you can't believe it. It was obvious maybe 20 years ago and the improvements have been for everyone to see."

The manager's comments came on the day that two teenagers who racially abused the Newcastle United striker Sammy Ameobi on Twitter were given final warnings by police. There is evidence that social networking sites have been a vehicle for racist abuse following allegations against Suarez and Chelsea's John Terry. But Ferguson's words appear to reflect Suarez's ban for the use of the word "negro" against United defender Evra and they will infuriate the Liverpool manager, Kenny Dalglish, who has never accepted the verdict of an FA-appointed independent regulatory commission.

Dalglish first risked re-igniting the row with United on Monday night, when he said that Suarez should never have been banned, a comment which the FA does not consider to have been helpful. Ferguson's own contribution was made at around the same time, in an interview with CNN at the Laureus World Sports awards in London on Monday evening.

Until now, his only contribution to the race debate had been his declaration on 23 December that "the [Suarez/Evra] matter is over and I think we're satisfied that the FA have found the right decision".

But with Terry to stand trial in July to deny a charge that he racially abused Queen's Park Rangers' Anton Ferdinand, Ferguson was willing to expand. "I have had some fantastic black players, absolutely magnificent black players, and with every one of them I have enjoyed my working relationship with them," he said. "But this is a moment where we have to take stock. I think we should do something about it if it's surfacing again, and be really hard and firm on any form or shape of racism."

It is a matter of debate whether the type of on-pitch racism which beset the game in the 1980s has actually returned, or whether the underlying problem is individual cases proving to be an excuse for despicable behaviour from those who watch the game. Anton Ferdinand received a bullet in the post before QPR faced Chelsea in the FA Cup last month. Fans subsequently booed Evra at Anfield and Rio Ferdinand at Stamford Bridge – simply because he had supported his brother, Anton.

The FA will not re-issue its reminder to United and Liverpool of their responsibilities not to inflame tensions ahead of Saturday's match, though the game's governing body does consider tweets from players to be a form of public communication which carry a responsibility.

Wayne Rooney's use of Twitter to say that Suarez should have been sent off for his challenge on Tottenham Hotspur's Scott Parker at Anfield on Monday night was incendiary, posted as it was three minutes after the Uruguayan's return from the eight-game ban imposed for the racial abuse of Evra.

The FA sees Rooney's message as an opinion, rather than an attempt to stoke the atmosphere before the Premier League match in which Suarez is likely to start his first game for Liverpool since his ban. It remains unclear if United, like Manchester City, will ask their players to desist from any potentially inflammatory use of Twitter this week.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice