Racial slurs continue to stir tension amongst Premier League clubs

Published On October 29, 2012 | By Meredith Perri

In the wake of their 3-2 loss to Manchester United Sunday night, Chelsea accused one of the referees of racially abusing two of their players, adding to an already storied history of racial problems in European football.

According to The Guardian, referee Mark Clattenburg verbally abused Chelsea midfielder Mikel John Obi and referred to another player on the team by a racial slur.

The incidents allegedly occurred during the match after Clattenburg allowed the offside game-winning goal from Manchester stand, and right after Clattenburg had sent off Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres.

“We have lodged to the Premier League match delegate regarding inappropriate language used by the referee towards two of our players in two separate incidents in today’s game,” a Chelsea spokesman said Sunday night. “The match delegate will pass the complaints to the Football Association. We will make no further comment at this time.”

After the game, Obi supposedly went to Clattenburg’s dressing room, spewing expletives at the referee, although it is unclear whether the two incidents are in fact related.

This is not the first time either team has been involved with racial problems in the last year. On Oct. 18, John Terry, Chelsea’s captain, accepted a punishment handed down by the Football Association. Last season, Terry racially abused Anton Ferdinand during a game against Queens Park Rangers.

Terry sat on the sidelines for yesterday’s game because of his punishment, which included a four game ban and a £220,000 fine imposed by the Football Association. Terry was also punished by Chelsea, but none of those punishments have been made public, according to The Week. 

“I want to take this opportunity to apologise to everyone for the language I used in the game against Queens Park Rangers last October,” Terry said a year after the incident. “Although I’m disappointed with the FA judgment, I accept that the language I used, regardless of the context is not acceptable on the football field or indeed in any walk of life.”

Many said that Terry’s apology came too late.

Rio Ferdinand, Anton Ferdinand’s brother and a member of Manchester United, found himself caught up in Terry’s saga when he made a racial slur of his own. In July, Rio Ferdinand used a racist term on Twitter to describe Ashley Cole, a player on Chelsea who supported Terry.

Ironically, Sunday’s story of racial problems within soccer came on the second to last day of Kick It Out’s Week of Action.

Kick It Out, which was established in 1993 under the campaign “Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football,” works in the football community to “challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practice and work for positive change,” according to its site.

Kick It Out’s annual awareness drive started on Oct. 18 and ended today. The goal was to “reflect on how football has worked to encourage greater involvement from minority communities.”

While groups like Kick It Out have tried to stop racism in European football, it has remained a noticeable part of the sport.

When the New England Patriots landed in London on Oct. 26, coach Bill Belichick was asked to compare changes in racism in American football to that of European football. Although Belichick said he did not know anything about racial problems in European football, he did go on to describe his take on the NFL.

“I’ve been in the National Football League for 38 years,” Belichcik said. “I think there’s a good rapport and mutual respect all the way around for all different types of lifestyles, races, religions in the league. Professional football in the United States is a very diverse community. People come from all areas of the country, foreign countries, all different races, religions, economic backgrounds, social backgrounds and it all comes together on a football team. I’ve been around it for 38 years and I haven’t seen any changes. I don’t know anything about the soccer league.”

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About The Author

Meredith is a junior journalism student at Boston University. She has covered nearly every sport for The Daily Free Press, BU’s independent student newspaper, but mainly writes about women’s hockey. Meredith has also covered Major League Baseball as an intern with SNY and MetsBlog.com. Follow her on Twitter at @mere579.