There is renewed calls for action against racism in football following the arrest of a man for alleged racist abuse of Manchester United player. During a match between Manchester United and City at Etihad, Sky’s cameras appeared to show a home fan making monkey chants directed towards
Manchester United’s Brazilian midfielder Fred during the second half of the match. The player said that the incident demonstrated that we were living in a “backward society”.
The man has been named as Anthony Burke. Burke, however, denied that he was racist. Earlier the same day a referee was forced to halt a League Two match at Forest Green Rovers’ stadium midway through the second half after reports of a racist comment directed towards Scunthorpe defender Jordan Clarke. There has been a string of events in recent months that have underlined the persistence of racism in football.
Piara Powar, executive director of Fare network, which works against discrimination in football, condemned the incident but said it was unsurprising. “There is a contagion,” said Powar. “This is happening everywhere unquestionably because of a few things. One of those is mimicry – people are seeing others doing it and they think that they can follow and it’s legitimate to do it.”
He added that the idea of clubs facing sanctions if incidents of racial abuse committed by their fans were frequent should be debated. “I think focusing on an individual is a good way to make that individual accountable, but sometimes we need to look wider than that and frame people as a collective.”
Former player turned pundit Gary Neville linked Boris Johnson’s rhetoric on immigration during election campaigning with the number of racist incidents in British society and sport. Powar, whose organisation works with Uefa to monitor racism across Europe, agreed with Neville. Greater Manchester police said a 41-year-old had been arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence and remained in custody on Sunday for questioning.
Supt Chris Hill of the City of Manchester division said the force was taking the matter extremely seriously. “Racism of any kind has no place in football or our society”, he said. “We will continue to work with Manchester City and Manchester United football clubs on this incident and will investigate any other lines of inquiries.” Manchester City said that it operated a zero tolerance policy and anyone found guilty of racist abuse would be banned for life.