Former England striker Jay Bothroyd joins criticism of new anti-racism campaign from Italy's Serie A

  • Video report by ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott

A former England striker has condemned the latest anti-racism campiagn from Serie A where an artist has painted apes to represent humans.

Jay Bothroyd, who previously played in Serie A for Perugia, told ITV News that the poster needs to be "more sensitive" before adding: "If you're a child and you look at that you're just going to see three monkeys, you're not going to understand.

"When it comes to racism you have to put a clear bold message out there that explains exactly what you cannot do in football and in everyday life."

His comments came as two of Italy's biggest football clubs have said they are "surprised" at the latest anti-racism campaign.

Bothroyd also said very little has changed since he played in Italy almost 10 years ago and added that football clubs should be punished more severely for racism.

Bothroyd said: "To me I think the only way you can really get racism out of attitude would be to try it, to try punishing the clubs directly."

He added: "These ultras at football clubs, they don't want to see their teams relegated because of a point deduction or missed out on the Champions League or competitions because of this.

"If they was to punish the clubs maybe then it would stop these small minded people, you know, from actually abusing players in a racist way."

Bothroyd follows football clubs AS Roma and AC Milan condemning the use of painted monkeys on social media, as both clubs expressing "surprise" at the direction of the campaign.

In a tweet, AS Roma said: "We understand the league wants to tackle racism but we don’t believe this is the right way to do it."

AC Milan also distanced themselves from the campaign. In a statement on social media, the club said: "Art can be powerful, but we strongly disagree with the use of monkeys as images in the fight against racism and were surprised by the total lack of consultation."

The artist behind the campaign, Simone Fugazzotto, is known for using monkeys in all of his paintings, so it should come as no surprise to football authorities that he has included them once more.

The theory of the campaign, according to the artist, is to "turn the concept back on the racists, as we are all monkeys originally".

Football in Italy has suffered from regular racist incidents at matches with the punishments handed out seen to be relatively weak.

“For an artist, there is nothing more important than trying to change people’s perceptions via their work,” Fugazzotto explained.

“With this trio of paintings, I tried to show that we are all complex and fascinating creatures, who can be sad or happy, Catholic, Muslim or Buddhist, but at the end of the day, what decides who we are is not the colour of our skin."

The piece was originally commissioned for at match between Lazio and Atalanta which took place in May.

“I only paint monkeys as a metaphor for human beings. We turn the concept back on the racists, as we are all monkeys originally. So I painted a Western monkey, an Asian monkey and a black monkey.”

The artist says he tried to 'turn the concept back on the racists, as we are all monkeys originally'. Credit: Serie A

Many took to social media in order to criticise Serie A for this latest blunder in their fight against racism.

Former footballer Jan Arge Fjortoft said: "What is wrong with people??? Are there no sensible people running Serie A??"

Ex-Liverpool and Aston Villa Stan Collymore took a sarcastic tone on Twitter, he wrote: "Fantastic to see Serie A anti racism campaign posters (yes, it's really real) Maybe get the mascots to Black up as a finishing touch."

Despite the criticism, the league will continue with the campaign.

“Simone’s paintings fully reflect the values of fair play and tolerance, so will remain in our headquarters,” Lega Serie A general manager Luigi De Siervo said at their unveiling.

“The Lega is taking a strong stand against any form of prejudice. We realise racism is an endemic problems and very complex, so we are facing it on three fronts – cultural, via works of art such as Simone’s paintings, sporting through a series of initiatives and players and clubs, and also repressive, thanks to the collaboration with the police.

“By acting on these three levels, we are sure that we can win the most important match against this plague that is ruining world’s most beautiful sport.”