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05 October 2023

PFA chief warns abuse could slow anti-racism drive


The head of England's players' union has said recent crowd abuse suffered by Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand could stop footballers from complaining over racial discrimination.

Manchester United defender Evra was repeatedly jeered by Liverpool fans in a recent FA Cup defeat after an independent tribunal ruled he'd been racially abused by the Merseysiders' Luis Suarez.

Evra was booed again during Premier League champions United's 3-3 draw away to Chelsea on Sunday, with club colleague Rio Ferdinand also taunted by some sections of the home support at Stamford Bridge.

Ferdinand is the older brother of QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, whom it is alleged was racially abused by Chelsea captain John Terry in October.

Terry, who denies the charge, is due to stand trial over the matter in July.

"The big thing is with the likes of Patrice Evra --- he has become a victim because he has made a complaint," Taylor, chief executive of England's Professional Footballers' Association, said Monday.

"The last thing we want is black players to feel there is no point making a complaint because they will then suffer a backlash."

However, Taylor said the current situation was very different from that of the 1970s and 1980s when it was not uncommon to see black players in England pelted with bananas by racist fans.

"There has been a backward step of late.

"But people are saying it is a return to the bad old days and I don't believe that. In the bad old days there would not have been the level of discussion that there is now.

"There are some excellent campaigns and I don't want people to think all the progress we have made in the last two decades has been wiped out. I don't want any black players to feel that has all been for nothing."

Sunday's match came after the Football Association stripped Terry of the England captaincy, fearing that if he stayed as skipper it would be a harmful distraction to the squad ahead of this year's European Championships in Poland and the Ukraine.

The FA have insisted they are not prejudging the outcome of the trial, which takes place after Euro 2012, but that didn't stop England manager Fabio Capello from publicly criticising his employers' decision to end Terry's latest stint as England captain.

Taylor though insisted the FA had acted correctly.

"If the captain, who has to do main press conferences, was forever going to be put under questioning as to whether he should be captain with that charge against him, that would take away the issue from football," he explained.

"This was an elephant in the room that wasn't going to go away and I felt the FA tried to negotiate through that moral maze by deciding to say he wouldn't be captain.

"It is just unfortunate the manager doesn't seem to be on board and understand the reasons why that was done."