Kelvin MacKenzie 'set to leave the Sun' after 'racist' Ross Barkley column

The Sun's former editor and high-profile columnist Kelvin MacKenzie is reportedly set to lose his contract with the newspaper after facing fury over an allegedly racist column about the footballer Ross Barkley.

The paper's owner News UK is believed to have decided to part ways with MacKenzie after he wrote a piece comparing the mixed-race Everton and England midfielder to a gorilla, according to the Financial Times.

It said that he will not be employed by the company for "much longer" and negotiations are taking place about the terms of his exit.

A spokesman for the Sun declined to comment on the reports.

The newspaper suspended MacKenzie and published an apology following outrage over the April 14 column.

In the piece MacKenzie had likened Barkley, whose grandfather was born in Nigeria, to "a gorilla at the zoo" and described him as "one of our dimmest footballers".

The column was also illustrated with a photograph of a gorilla's eyes below a close-up of the eyes of Barkley.

Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie with Rupert Murdoch in 1986. Credit: PA

MacKenzie has said he was unaware of Barkley's family background when he wrote the column and claimed much of the criticism was "beyond parody".

However, the piece prompted immediate fury from many who said the comparison played into racist tropes about black people.

It was compounded by the fact that the column was published on the eve of the 28th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 Liverpool fans died.

MacKenzie, who was then editing the paper, led coverage that wrongly blamed fans for the tragedy. He apologised in 2012.

A spokesman for the Sun declined to comment on reports on whether the tabloid was in exit negotiations with MacKenzie.

He said only: "Kelvin remains suspended from the newspaper."