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  1. ITV Report

Football must do more to curb 'worrying trend' of racist abuse, says ex-Premier League striker Jason Roberts

Former Premier League footballer Jason Roberts has spoken out about the "worrying trend" of racism at football games following the spate of abuse suffered by black players in recent weeks.

Speaking at UEFA's Equal Game conference at Wembley yesterday, Roberts, who is now director of development at CONCACAF, said "society's ills" were starting to "seep down into football".

His remarks came hours after Juventus striker Moise Kean was racially abused by Cagliari supporters in a Serie A game at the Sardegna Arena.

The 41-year-old, who played for Wigan, Blackburn Rovers and Reading, said more must be done in the fight against racism in football.

His remarks came just hours after Juventus striker Moise Kean was racially abused by Cagliari supporters in a Serie A game at the Sardegna Arena. Credit: AP

He told ITV News: “We’ve seen many high profile incidents of racism. This year we’ve seen bananas thrown on the pitch, weve seen people being abused, we’ve heard monkey chants.

"Yesterday in Italy at the Juventus game we saw a young man 19-years-old, young enough to be my son, had to be put in a position to receive disgusting abuse and what was even more worrying was the lack of action from the referee in stopping the game."

The former Premier League striker criticised the response from the Calgairi players and also Kean's teammate Leonardo Bonucci, who said the blame for the racist incident was "50/50".

Roberts added: "The response from the Cagliari players to pull him from the scenario as if scoring and celebrating is something he shouldn’t do, and some of the worrying comments coming out of his dressing room where it’s 50/50 and he should behave in a better manner.

Raheem Sterling was racially abused during England's game against Montengro. Credit: PA

"I don’t think that’s the way we challenge racism."

Roberts said he supported teams walking off the pitch if players suffered racist abuse and that tougher measures needed to be implemented to deter criminal behaviour.

Roberts added: "Whether its sanctions, whether it’s banning players and empty stadiums things need to be done.

"If they’re not players will have to act in their own interests because you don’t go to your place of work to be abused.”

In recent weeks there has been a spate of high-profile racist incidents which have blighted games across Europe.

Last month, England's Raheem Sterling, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Danny Rose suffered racist abuse from Montenegro fans during a 5-1 win in Podgorica.

Hudson-Odoi was also subjected to racist abuse by Dynamo Kiev fans less than two weeks before England's game whilst playing for Chelsea.

The head of European's anti-racism network FARE said the FA could learn from Europe and toughen up their sanctions in response to racism.

Piara Powar said: "When you talk to an FA or a European club that faces a partial stadium closure and therefore abuse again in the next match faces a full stadium closure – that has a big impact. I don’t think anyone should ever pretend that it doesn’t.

"The fact that it hasn’t happened in this country, we don’t see partial stadium closures because the FA doesn’t impose them, means also that we can’t relate to it."