Police to investigate Yorke race case

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The Independent Online

Lancashire police launched a criminal investigation yesterday into allegations that Dwight Yorke was racially abused by Blackburn Rovers supporters. The Birmingham City - and former Blackburn - striker confronted a fan he said taunted him as he warmed up during the match at Ewood Park on Sunday and claimed that others had made "monkey noises".

Lancashire police launched a criminal investigation yesterday into allegations that Dwight Yorke was racially abused by Blackburn Rovers supporters. The Birmingham City - and former Blackburn - striker confronted a fan he said taunted him as he warmed up during the match at Ewood Park on Sunday and claimed that others had made "monkey noises".

As the Football Association and Premier League issued a joint statement describing the incident as "isolated", Lancashire police were interviewing Blackburn's safety officers and examining CCTV and video footage from the match which was screened live by Sky Sports.

Chief superintendent David Mallaby held a meeting with Blackburn's chief executive John Williams, secretary Tom Finn and stadium safety manager John Newsham. A detective inspector will interview "all relevant parties" before deciding whether charges should be brought. One fan was ejected from the ground after the incident and already faces criminal charges.

Blackburn have started their own investigation. In a statement the club said that the incident was "isolated", adding "we deeply regret any embarrassment caused to Dwight Yorke and Birmingham City FC. Over the years, the club has worked tirelessly to eliminate racism, working in close conjunction with organisations like Kick It Out, and we want to be quite clear that racism will not be tolerated at Ewood Park."

Piara Power, the director of Kick It Out, an anti-racism organisation, accepted that Blackburn had a good record on combating racism and also backed Yorke in his decision to confront the fan. "Dwight Yorke is affected by it and sometimes I feel players will always feel it necessary to get involved," he said. "We have to understand the impact racial abuse of this kind has on the individuals involved."

Sports Minister Richard Caborn said that although the incident was "isolated" it was "still unacceptable behaviour". "We need to strengthen peer-group power so that people can report these incidents to stewards or police and be confident that their complaint will be dealt with," he said. "This was nothing like the events that went on in Madrid last week, but racism should not be tolerated in any form."

Indeed, although Birmingham's chief executive Karren Brady described the abuse as "incredibly upsetting" for Yorke, the club's plc chairman David Sullivan said he believed it had been "blown out of all proportion". He added: "If it's three out of 22,000 who make racist comments, then it's not very nice. I think you have to pick up on it and ban those people from the ground but I just can't believe, with all that is going on in the world, that it's that big a deal. Most of the comments were 'you lazy bastard' - not a racial comment but 'lazy, lazy, lazy' was the bulk of the chanting. I would criticise any racism in the game, but I don't think there is very much. I go to football week in, week out and see virtually no racist abuse at games."

The Spanish National Anti-Violence Commission meets today to discuss the events in Madrid, including the run-up to the match when the Spain coach Luis Aragones referred to Britain's colonial past. The coach appears before the government body, which meets weekly to decide on policing for matches and other matters. If Aragones is criticised it will put further pressure on him with demands he resign having been made already.

The FA is to delay offering Spain a return friendly. Countries usually meet again within two years, but the racial incidentmeans the FA is likely to seek a longer "cooling off" period.

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