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Call for unity as racism divides English football

Story highlights

  • Reading's Jason Roberts will refuse to wear an anti-racism groups t-shirt
  • The striker's move is a protest against a lack of action from the group Kick It Out
  • Former EPL player Vicent Pericard questions Roberts' move and calls for unity
  • Kick It Out and UEFA both hosting anti-racism weeks designed to raise awareness

Another week has passed for the world's most popular sport. Another week of brawls, scandal and allegations of racist abuse which has left the football's lawmakers grappling as to how best to tackle discrimination.

On Tuesday, England's Under-21 match with Serbia was overshadowed by ugly fighting and alleged racist chants directed at Danny Rose, an incident that led to calls from leading figures within the English game to ban the Balkan country from international football.

Not that England could in any way claim the higher moral ground as two days later former England captain John Terry decided against appealing his four-match ban and $356,000 fine for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand.

That punishment raised questions about the even handedness of the English Football Assocation given Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches and fined $64,000 for comments he made to Manchester United's Patrice Evra in October 2011.

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Back in Switzerland on Thursday, European governing body UEFA decided to hand Lazio a $52,000 fine for racist chanting by their fans during a match with Tottenham Hotspur.

    It is against this backdrop of abuse, bans and fines that Reading striker Jason Roberts launched his own protest against what he perceives to be a lack of action by anti-racism group Kick It Out.

    On Saturday, before Reading's match with Liverpool, the Grenadian striker will refuse to wear a t-shirt displaying the logo of the anti-racism organization.

    With the English seemingly fissuring over how best to tackle racism, former English Premier League striker Vincent Pericard questioned Roberts' boycott and called for a united front in the continued fight against discrimination.

    Read: Crime and punishment in sport? Laying down the law

    "If we are going to fight racism, we can only do it by being united," said Pericard, who played in England's top flight for Portsmouth having previously playing Italy and France.

    "Having different parties will only give more power to the racists, which isn't what we want to achieve."

    It is rumored other black players may follow Roberts' lead, while Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Aston Villa confirmed their players will wear the t-shirts.

    "I know that just wearing a t-shirt is not going to make a difference, without action nothing is going to happen," continued Pericard.

    "So I can agree with Jason Roberts, but one solution suggested by the Kick It Out chairman Herman Ouseley is for them to have more independence and more power, so they can have a bigger say.

    "It is unfortunate we have had two very high-profile incidents," added Pericard, referring to the cases involving Terry and Suarez, "but I can speak from my own experience -- England is winning the battle against racism."

    Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has been unwavering in his support of his younger brother Anton, but his manager Alex Ferguson questioned Roberts' planned action.

    "I have to disagree with Jason Roberts. I think he is making the wrong point," said the Scottish coach. "Everyone should be united, with all the players in the country wearing the Kick It Out warm-up tops.

    "I don't know what point he is trying to make. I don't know if he is trying to put himself on a different pedestal from everyone. But he really should be supporting all the rest of the players who are doing it.

    "When you do something, and everyone believes in it, you should all do it together. There shouldn't be sheep wandering off. I think he is making the wrong message. All the players are wearing it."

    Former Stoke City and Juventus player Pericard outlined how a lot of the efforts made by organizations like Kick It Out have slipped under the radar.

    "We have seen firsthand the amount of work they are doing behind the scenes at the moment," continued the 30-year-old, who runs a company which aims to help integrate foreign players who move to England.

    "They are listening to what is being said by different black players and I can guarantee a lot is being doing done at the moment," added Pericard, who retired earlier this year after a playing career which included spells with Juventus and Stoke City.

    "They promote education, mentoring, inclusion and equality across different cultures. I have been talking to them about improving the integration of foreign players into a country and providing them a level of support."

    The t-shirt gesture that Roberts is not going to participate in is part of Kick It Out's annual awareness raising drive which is aimed at highlighting the work it has done to rid football of discrimination.

    UEFA and Kick It Out's fellow anti-racism group Football Against Racism in Europe will also use the European Champions League and Europa League matches on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to spread a message of tolerance and unity.

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