An English TV presenter has apologised for his comments as Manchester United legend Gary Neville made an impassioned plea after football star Antonio Rudiger suffered alleged racist abuse in Chelsea’s 2-0 win at Tottenham this morning.
Rudiger appeared to be subjected to monkey chants from Tottenham fans after he was involved in a second half clash with Son Heung-min that triggered the South Korean’s controversial red card.
Son kicked out at Rudiger after they collided and the German centre-back went to the turf clutching his stomach.
The incident was followed by the alleged racist barracking, which Rudiger reported to referee Anthony Taylor via Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta.
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Taylor spoke to both managers, while the public address system made three announcements warning that “racist behaviour among spectators is interfering with the game”.
It is the latest incident of racism to scar European football this season, overshadowing the Willian double that gave Blues coach Frank Lampard a memorable triumph at the expense of his former Chelsea manager Mourinho.
Neville, now working as a high-profile TV pundit in England since his playing days ended, raised issues in British politics as a factor behind what he says is a “racism problem” in English football and also called out the Premier League for not doing enough to stamp out racist abuse.
Many on social media were quick to praise Neville but plenty also slammed presenter and host David Jones for chiming in when he said: “I am compelled to say they are the opinions of you, Gary Neville, and not those of Sky Sports. That is my duty.
“Whether I do or I don’t (agree with Neville) is completely irrelevant. I’m here to try and hold a balanced debate.”
Jones apologised for his wording and took to Twitter to clarify his remarks.
Jones’ response came after Neville urged football powerbrokers to do more to eradicate racism.
“We have a racism problem in the Premier League, in England, and the Premier League have got to stand up,” Neville said during Sky Sports’ post-match analysis.
“They hide behind the FA (Football Association), the Premier League, on this issue. They hide behind the FA in my opinion. They push the disciplinary issues and other issues over to the FA.
“Yes we heard the announcements at the end but I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago — we just had a general 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.
“So if it’s accepted in the highest office in this country — we’re not talking about a micro level, we’re talking about it at an absolute enormous level, the highest office in the country — and it’s the same here today.”
Neville also said the time is right for players to take matters into their own hands when it comes to racial abuse at games.
“We’ve seen an incident which, to be fair, we could call is down to one individual person but it’s a far bigger problem than that. I think there has to be something that happens quickly,” Neville said.
“Ultimately, we maybe have to empower the players to walk off the pitch and stop the entertainment while it’s happening. Because that’s the only way I can see it happening.
“I didn’t walk off the pitch when Ashley (Cole, former England teammate) was abused 15 years ago and ultimately you might argue that it’s now OK for me to sit here in my ivory tower of the commentary box and suggest that the players should walk off the pitch. But ultimately I think I would be ashamed of myself for not (doing so) 15 years ago and now everybody would be absolutely proud of players to empower them to think, ‘Do something about it, take it into your own hands’.
“The PFA (players union) have got to act because ultimately the PFA are there to protect football players in this country and players in this country are receiving abuse while they’re playing football and doing their jobs and that is unacceptable.”
Chelsea boss Lampard wants firm action from the authorities, but he insists there was never any question of his team walking off the pitch in protest.
“All I know is Toni Rudiger said he heard racist chanting. I haven’t had a conversation with him. Of course I support him,” Lampard said.
“I don’t know if it is getting worse (in football). Of course we know there is a protocol. It needs to be dealt with strongly no matter what stadium it is.”
Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho made it clear he can’t abide racism, but he then took a swipe at Rudiger, effectively accusing him of play-acting to get Son sent off.
“I hate racism in society, I hate racism in football. I’m disappointed that things like that can happen. The club is a very proud club in this kind of situation and internally we will try to deal with it,” he said.
Pressed on Rudiger’s theatrical fall, Mourinho added: “For me it is not a red card. For me it was really bad and basically kills the game.
“Rudiger for sure is having scans in the hospital on the broken ribs because it was really a violent situation!
“One of the reasons I fell in love with this country was we don’t call this kind of player a clever player, we call them other things that I refuse to say.”
Lampard disagreed, saying: “It was a red card. Sometimes in football you have instinctive moments and it was that moment for Son. I would not have any words said about how Rudiger dealt with that.”
Meanwhile, a subsequent Tottenham statement said the club were “conducting a through investigation” that would include liaising with Chelsea players and staff.
“Any form of racism is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our stadium,” the statement added.
“We take any such allegations extremely seriously and shall take the strongest possible action against any individual found to be behaving in such a way, including stadium bans.”
All the talk of racism meant Lampard was unable to fully savour the moment after masterminding the best result of his first season in charge of Chelsea.
Cleverly changing his tactics with a switch from a 4-3-3 formation to a 5-2-3 system, Lampard out-witted Mourinho so effectively that Chelsea dominated from start to finish.
A run of four defeats from their last five league games had raised doubts about Lampard and his young team.
But Willian’s superb opener was followed by a clinical penalty from the Brazilian as Chelsea held onto fourth place and moved six points clear of seventh placed Tottenham.
Mourinho claimed Lampard’s tweak copied the formation used by one of his Chelsea predecessors Antonio Conte.
But the current Blues chief said: “That didn’t factor in at all … I’m not trying to clone someone’s system.”
Asked if the acrimonious afternoon had damaged his relationship with Mourinho, Lampard added: “Still buddies? Yes.”