Football pundit Alan Hansen was forced to apologise after twice using the word “coloured” to describe black players during a Match of the Day debate on racism in the game.
Former Liverpool defender Hansen, 56, used the word when discussing the John Terry and Luis Suarez rows, prompting in excess of 80 complaints from viewers and a backlash on Twitter.
England and Chelsea captain Terry was told on Wednesday he faces criminal charges over video footage which appears to show him shouting an offensive comment at Queens Park Rangers player Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League match on October 23.
Suarez, the Liverpool striker, was handed an eight-match ban by the Football Association on Tuesday after being found guilty of misconduct for using insulting words to Patrice Evra, including a reference to the Manchester United defender’s skin colour, during a match at Anfield on October 15.
Hansen, a long-standing pundit on the football highlights show, said: “I unreservedly apologise for any offence caused. This was never my intention and I deeply regret the use of the word.”
The ex-player, who reportedly earns £40,000 per show, said during the discussion: “I think there’s a lot of coloured players in all the major teams and there are lots of coloured players who are probably the best in the Premier League.
“If you look at 25 or 30 years ago it was probably in a bad way – not as bad as some of the other nations on the continent – but certainly there is always, always room for improvement.”
His remarks sparked an online backlash, with the former Tottenham Hotspur and Barnsley player Rohan Ricketts, tweeting: “Is this Alan Hansen guy taking the f****** p***?? I’m not coloured??? He is part of the problem when using that word. We are BLACK Alan!”
Ricketts, who now plays for Irish side Shamrock Rovers, added: “Alan Hansen is more coloured than a black person. But still we would not call him or another white man coloured.”
The row came as Terry, 31, was backed by his manager Andre Villas-Boas yesterday and last night led out the team for their London Derby with Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.
The Portuguese said: “John has told me he is in the right frame of mind to play and showed fantastic commitment to the team.
“His performances have been good and I don’t doubt his integrity as a person.
“He represents this club to a maximum level and we’re very grateful to have a player of his quality in our team, in what he represents in terms of history and achievements a the club.
“We know exactly his human values and personality, so we will support him whatever happens.”
Terry is set to appear before West London Magistrates’ Court on February 1 and could face a maximum fine of £2,500 if convicted. Terry reportedly earns £160,000 a week.
Meanwhile, Suarez’s lawyer announced he would appeal against his ban.
Alejandro Balbi, who is also the Uruguayan striker’s agent, said: “It seems to us absolutely out of proportion.
“It’s one of the hardest sanctions handed down in English football. He is firmly convinced this hard sanction can be reversed.”
Suarez has 14 days to launch his appeal, but runs the risk of having the ban extended if unsuccessful.