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Gary Neville suggests political leaders have influenced growing racism in football and calls on players to walk off pitch

Neville has previously blamed Prime Minister Boris Johnson for ‘fuelling’ racism in Britain and believes politicians who are not held to account for their behaviour are having a major impact on football

Jack de Menezes
Monday 23 December 2019 08:00 GMT
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Premier League match preview: Tottenham v Chelsea

Gary Neville issued a second passionate attack on the political leaders of the country for fuelling the racial undertone that is casting a dark shadow over Premier League football, following Antonio Rudiger’s allegation that he was subjected to racist chants during Chelsea’s win over Tottenham.

For the second time in little more than two weeks, a Premier League match was overshadowed by an alleged incident involving a fan racially abusing a player, with Rudiger informing his Chelsea captain of the incident at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium who subsequently informed referee Anthony Taylor.

After Taylor made pitchside officials aware as well as the two managers Frank Lampard and Jose Mourinho, three separate announcements were made over the stadium tannoy to highlight that the chants were unacceptable.

Tottenham have also confirmed that they have launched an investigation into Rudiger’s allegations and have “promised to take the strongest possible action” should they identify any individuals responsible, but the incident comes just 15 days after Manchester United players reported being racially abused during the 2-1 victory over Manchester City.

Following the Manchester derby, former United and England defender Neville blamed Prime Minister Boris Johnson for “fuelling” racism within Britain, and he once again referenced the two main political parties for setting the tone for the rest of the nation.

"I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we have just had an election in this country where both main parties and the leaders of both main parties are accused constantly over the last month of fuelling racism and accepting racism within their parties," Neville said on Sky Sports.

"If it is accepted within the highest office in the country, we are not talking about it at a micro level, we are talking about an absolutely enormous level.

"Maybe we have to empower the players to walk off the pitch and stop the entertainment while it is happening. That is the only way I can see it happening.”

Neville was sat alongside his former England colleague Ashley Cole, who has previously been subjected to racial abuse while on international duty and also revealed that he received similar treatment in Britain while playing.

"Ashley was abused at the Bernabeu in a game I played in (in November 2004) and probably did not give it a moment's thought really,” Neville added. "We are thinking it as football players, then ultimately you hear about it when there is a media storm, with calls for Uefa, for Fifa, for the Spanish authorities to deal with it... similarly recently with Bulgaria (against England).

"But we have a racism problem in the Premier League in England. And the Premier League have to step up, they hide behind the FA on this issue."

He added: "Maybe we have to empower the players to walk off the pitch and stop the entertainment while it is happening. That is the only way I can see it happening.

"I did not walk off the pitch when Ashley was abused 15 years ago, and you might argue that now it's okay for me to sit here in my ivory tower of a commentary box and suggest that players should walk off the pitch.

"Ultimately I would be ashamed of myself for not doing (it) 15 years ago as I would be absolutely proud of players for doing it now, to empower them to think, do something about it and take it into your own hands."

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