In Depth

Why everyone is talking about Tottenham vs. Chelsea

Professional Footballers’ Association calling for government inquiry following alleged racist abuse by fans at Premier League clash

A Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea this weekend was halted and fans warned three times over alleged racist abuse of players.

Spurs bosses have vowed to conduct “a thorough investigation” into the incident at their club’s north London stadium, but calls are growing for more widespread action to tackle the problem of racism in football

What happened during the match?

Referee Anthony Taylor stopped Sunday’s game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium during the second half after Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger complained of hearing monkey noises from the crowd.

Tottenham’s Son Heung-min had been given a red card and sent off after an on-field incident involving Rudiger moments before the stoppage.

Shortly after the game was halted, an announcement was made over the PA system warning that “racist behaviour is interfering with the game”, The Sun reports. The warning was repeated a further two times before the end of the match, which saw Chelsea claiming a 2-0 victory.

In his post-match interview, Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta said : “Toni came to me and he told me he was listening in the crowd [to] monkey noises and my job as a captain is to go straight to the referee and to report it.

“We are very concerned and aware of the problems. All together we need to make it stop. We have to work together towards the eradication of the problem. It’s an issue in life and football, unfortunately, and we have to keep working hard.”

And the reaction?

“Any form of racism is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our stadium,” said Spurs in a statement released after the match.

“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.”

Meanwhile, in a series of tweets, Rudiger insisted that he doesn’t blame the club, saying: “It is really sad to see racism again at a football match, but I think it’s very important to talk about it in public. If not, it will be forgotten again in a couple of days (as always).

“I don’t want to involve Tottenham as an entire club into this situation as I know that just a couple of idiots were the offenders. I got a lot of supportive messages on social media from Spurs fans as well in the last hours - thank you a lot for this.

“There must have been witnesses in the stadium who saw and heard the incident. It’s just such a shame that racism still exists in 2019. When will this nonsense stop?”

The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) players’ union tweeted: “We are disgusted and dismayed that once again, a Premier League fixture has been tainted by abuse from the stands towards players.

“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.”

Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho said: “The protocol was followed and we are one of the clubs, every club is together on this situation and of course we are disappointed.”

Anti-racism organisation Kick it Out has released a statement praising referee Taylor’s action “in following step one of the protocol and the ensuing steps taken by Tottenham Hotspur in repeating the stadium announcements.”

But former England international and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville has warned that racism is not happening on a “micro level” but on “the absolute enormous level”.

“It’s accepted in the highest office in the country,” Neville said on Sky Sports, in an apparent reference to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s use of racist language.

“We maybe have to empower the players to walk off the pitch and stop the entertainment whilst it’s happening.”

What next?

Spurs may not be charged by the Football Association over the racism, as the club has “no jurisdiction over individual fans”, says The Guardian.

Tottenham have vowed to “take the strongest possible action”, and will be liaising with Chelsea and their players as part of their investigation.

But the PFA is calling for the government to get involved, insisting that “all governing bodies” and “all football stakeholders” should work together to “confront, challenge and eradicate racist abuse in our stadiums and in our country”.

In a statement, the union said: “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.” 

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