English football 'must do its own homework' on racism before it starts preaching, says Sports Minister Nigel Adams

English football "needs to get our own homework done before we start preaching" about racist abuse, Yorkshire MP and Sports Minister Nigel Adams admitted today.

Selby MP Nigel Adams
Selby MP Nigel Adams

MPs from all parties today condemned the racist abuse aimed at the England team as they played Bulgaria in a Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia, with calls for sanctions to follow from Uefa.

But several MPs also raised concerns closer to home about racism and a lack of diversity within football, insisting that more still needs to be done in England.

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Selby MP Nigel Adams

Labour's Anna Turley (Redcar) criticised the "vile and horrific abuse" in Bulgaria, before adding: "A lot of discussion has been taking place already about getting our own house in order.

"The FA still has a long way to go to represent England as a country and as a society.

"At the moment, only 13 per cent of the FA's coaching staff are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and only 5% are in leadership roles.

"How can we expect the young people of the future to see a career in football unless the FA looks more like the society it represents?"

Sports Minister Nigel Adams, Tory MP for Selby, replied: "(Ms Turley) is absolutely correct, and can I just say it's not just the players that were victims of the abuse last night - there were FA support staff, cameramen who were of colour who were abused, visibly shaking, so it isn't just the players.

"The best role models, I think, for diversity in football are those magnificent players who took to the pitch last night.

"It was just amazing to see how diverse the England football team looks and hopefully that will inspire many other men and women, girls and boys from all different backgrounds to take up our national game."

Shadow sports minister Rosena Allin-Khan earlier insisted that Uefa has a duty to act following the abuse aimed at England, and noted: "We ourselves, however, are not exempt from this problem.

"It would be irresponsible for us to condemn the behaviour of fans around the world without addressing the fact that many players have indeed suffered racist abuse online, from the stands, and in their day-to-day lives at the hands of a very small section of our own fans."

Mr Adams also said: "There is lots ... we need to get our own homework done before we start preaching, if you like.

"But there is such a huge scale of a problem that, when international problems like this arise, we have to speak up, we have to demand action."

Conservative MP Gareth Johnson (Dartford) told the House: "It is true we have a chequered history on this issue with our country, but where we have seen incidents of it taking place, generally speaking the police have been very robust in their actions against it.

"What was particularly disappointing last night is there was little evidence of the Bulgarian police taking action against those fans who are taking part in this vile behaviour."

Labour's Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) questioned when action would take place following the latest incident in Bulgaria.

She said: "After the Montenegro match in April, I suggested we take Uefa to the European Court of Human Rights for repeated failure to provide a working environment free from racism and homophobia for football players. I was told we were going to have meetings.

"Now I'm told we're going to have letters. What will it take to get some action?"

SNP MP Hannah Bardell (Livingston) said Uefa and Fifa have been "flat-footed for far too long" on the issue.

She asked the minister: "Will he make sure that Uefa and Fifa will not be allowed to put profit before prosecution or action on this issue?"

Labour MP Sandy Martin (Ipswich) also asked: "Would he agree to write to each and every one of the England players at that match to tell them just how proud the country is of their behaviour?"

Mr Adams replied: "There are plans in place for someone more senior than me to do exactly that."

Commons Speaker John Bercow said team boss Gareth Southgate has again shown "what a magnificent ambassador for England and the UK he is", adding that the players also behaved "magnificently" in "circumstances of intense provocation and vile behaviour by so-called fans".

He went on: "One of my own children was watching the match and came in to say how visibly shocked and upset he was."