LONDON (AP) - British Prime Minister David Cameron asked England’s soccer leaders Wednesday to provide a plan against racism in the sport after a series of high-profile cases involving the Premier League.
Cameron addressed soccer officials, former players and anti-racism campaigners at a summit on Downing Street, warning that abusive behavior by soccer stars is imitated by youngsters and must be stopped.
“We have some problems still today,” Cameron said. “We need to act quickly to make sure those problems do not creep back in … if everyone plays their role, then we can easily crush and deal with this problem.”
The English Football Association must provide a full report detailing how racism and other forms of discrimination can be combatted.
“We have committed to coming back with a detailed follow-up to this in two months,” FA chairman David Bernstein said.
The government announced Wednesday it will give $4.7 million toward the English Football Association’s new coaching center in a bid to encourage more people from ethnic minorities to become managers. There are no black managers in the Premier League.
In July, John Terry will become the first high-profile soccer player to stand trial for racial abuse following a confrontation with Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand in October. The Chelsea player was stripped of the England captaincy this month in a move opposed by coach Fabio Capello, who quit in protest.
Sport Secretary Jeremy Hunt said after Wednesday’s summit that soccer needs to address “how we draw the line between banter and offensive language.”
Liverpool, the 18-time English champion, was criticized for its support of striker Luis Suarez when he was banned for eight matches after racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra in October.
Liverpool, owned by the parent company of the Boston Red Sox, was condemned by anti-racism groups for backing Suarez and allowing players and manager Kenny Dalglish to wear T-shirts featuring Suarez’s picture in a show of solidarity before a match weeks later.
This month, Suarez was criticized for refusing to shake hands with Evra in their first match since the confrontation. He apologized later under pressure.
“What happens on the field influences what happens off the field. You see children as young as 6 imitating the behavior they see on the field,” Cameron said. “So this is not just important for football _ it’s important for the whole country … we want to make sure football is all about a power to do good, rather than anything else.”
Amal Fashanu attended the summit, which also dealt with the lingering problem of homophobia in soccer. She recently made a documentary for British TV about homosexuality in soccer, 14 years after her uncle Justin committed suicide.
The career of Fashanu, the first black player to move in a 1 million-pound transfer when he joined Nottingham Forest in 1981, faded after he publicly acknowledged his homosexuality. He was found hanged in a London garage in 1998 at 37.
“Potentially, gay people don’t want to be become Premier League footballers because they are intimidated by the atmosphere … or they don’t think the environment makes it possible for them to come out,” Hunt said.