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PFA call for government inquiry into racism after Rudiger incident

LONDON (Reuters) - The Professional Footballers’ Association called for a government inquiry into racism in English soccer on Sunday after Chelsea’s 2-0 Premier League win over Tottenham Hotspur was overshadowed by allegations of abuse hurled at Antonio Rudiger.

Chelsea’s German defender was involved in an incident that saw Tottenham’s Son Heung-min red-carded just past the hour mark and shortly afterwards indicated that he had been the victim of a monkey gesture from the home section.

Several announcements were made over Tottenham’s public address system saying “racist behaviour from spectators is interfering with the game” while referee Anthony Taylor stopped the game to talk to the players.

“We are disgusted and dismayed that once again, a Premier League fixture has been tainted by abuse from the stands towards players,” the PFA said in a statement.

“It has become clear that football players are on the receiving end of the blatant racism that is currently rife in the UK, but they are not alone.

“The PFA calls for a government inquiry into racism within football and encourage the establishment of an All-Party Group at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.”

Tottenham have also vowed to take the “strongest possible action” if any fan is identified as having made racist gestures.

The club said the correct protocol had been adopted for the one reported incident. UEFA’s three-step protocol states that a game can be abandoned if fans have been warned twice before.

“My understanding is that there was a racist comment or gesture. I know Antonio reported it to (captain) Cesar (Azpilicueta) out on the pitch,” Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea - Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, Britain - December 22, 2019 Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger reacts as Tottenham fans look on REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

“They are now talking to the officials and going through the right procedure. No matter what stadium it is in, we do not want that in the game.”

Tottenham issued a statement saying they would be conducting a “thorough investigation” and would liaise with Chelsea.

“Any form of racism is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our stadium,” Tottenham said in a statement.

“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.”

Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta said the incident happened after the red card to Son, after he kicked out at Rudiger following a tussle.

“Toni came to me and said he was listening in the crowd monkey noises,” the Spaniard said. “I reported it to the referee. We have to work together to eradicate the problem. It is an issue in life and football.

“It is made very clear to us all that if we have heard any racist incident to report it. Altogether we need to make it stop.”

The alleged racist incident is the latest one at a high-level Premier League game.

Others include Manchester United’s Fred claiming he was victim of a monkey gesture by a Manchester City fan. In July, Chelsea banned one of their fans for life after he racially abused Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling.

Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld said players were “sick of it” when asked about the incident while Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho said “every club was together” in the battle to eradicate racist behaviour from the stands.

“I was losing, I didn’t want the game stopped but immediately when I knew the reason why it was stopped I obviously understood and accepted it,” he said.

“The club is also a very proud club in this kind of situation and the club also internally will try to delete it.

“I’m disappointed that things like that still can happen, but the referee stopped the game. He spoke to the players, he spoke to the captains, he spoke with the coaches.”

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ian Chadband