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Racially abused footballers who walk off pitch should not be punished by FA, minister says

England and Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling has spoken out about the racist abuse he has received. Credit: PA

The FA should not punish teams for walking off the pitch if they are victims of racist abuse, a sports minister has said.

Mims Davies called on the FA to change its rules where teams are fined if players leave the field of play, saying it "sends out the wrong signal”.

The Conservative MP added that the sport "cannot be used as a cloak for racism", following a number of high-profile incidents which have tarnished the game.

Just last month, Raheem Sterling, Danny Rose and Callum Hudson-Odoi were all subjected to racist abuse during England's 5-1 win over Montenegro.

Mims Davies says teams should not be fined if they leave the pitch because of racist abuse. Credit: Conservative Party/PA

Ms Davies told the House of Commons: "Football cannot be used as a cloak for racism and intolerance and this is a sign that players have had enough, fans have had enough, and this Government has had enough. So stop it.”

She also backed those who want teams to leave the field if they hear racist chanting, adding: “It’s absolutely right that players can take the right actions and we should stand with them.”

Ms Davies later told MPs: “It cannot be right for clubs to be fined for players taking action and walking off the pitch if they are receiving racist abuse. It is vital that players are supported.

“This fine sends out the wrong signal. The FA must review whether their rules and the guidance they give to clubs is effective in these situations.”

Ms Davies did note that while the vast majority of football fans were a credit to the sport, she said “sadly it is being used by certain groups and individuals to spread hate”.

Raheem Sterling celebrated his goal in front of Montenegro fans. Credit: PA

She added: "We simply cannot have millions of people, in particular our young people tuning in, or witnessing first hand, the type of vile abuse that has been apparent of late.”

Her remarks come a week after the Premier League launched its "no room for racism" initiative, aimed at raising awareness about discrimination in the sport.

Labour shadow culture secretary Tom Watson said: “I agree with the minister when she says players should never be punished for walking off a pitch after receiving racist abuse."

Among his suggestions, Mr Watson added: “Given that so much racist abuse directed at players is online, will the minister explicitly include hate crimes aimed at sporting figures in the online harms consultation?”

Ms Davies said she intends to meet with Uefa and Fifa to discuss the issue.

In a statement, the FA said: “We have spoken to the DCMS today as one of our key stakeholders in this field, and will be hosting one of their roundtables on discrimination at Wembley next month for further conversation.

"The FA has made huge strides in recent years to ensure that English football is a diverse and inclusive game. Most recently, The FA launched its ‘In Pursuit of Progress’ inclusion plan which has clear targets and ambitions to make sure our game better reflects modern society.

"This involves creating opportunities in football, both on and off the pitch, for people of all backgrounds. We strongly condemn all forms of discrimination and encourage all fans and participants who believe that they have been the subject of, or witness to, discriminatory abuse to report it through the appropriate channels: The FA, our County FA network or via our partners at Kick It Out."

What should players do if they are racially abused?

Under FA protocol, players are advised to report incidents of racism to match officials, who can then take action.

Players who fail to follow protocol and walk off the pitch without informing match officials could be punished.

Referees have the authority to stop a football match if they deem fit.

If an incident has been reported to a match official, the incident will be logged as a complaint with the FA after the match, who will carry out their own investigation.

The FA has the ability to issue fines and bans lasting a lifetime if a fan, player or coaching staff member is found guilty of racial abuse.