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  1. ITV Report

Number 10 wades into football racism debate after Antonio Rudiger 'monkey chants'

Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger claimed he was targeted by racism, prompting Gary Neville to hit out. Credit: PA

Downing St has told the football authorities they must step up efforts to tackle racism - or the government will take further action "if required".

As inquiries continue into the alleged 'monkey chants' directed at Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger by Tottenham fans, Boris Johnson's official spokesman has waded into the issue.

He said "clearly" more work needs to be done to stamp out racism anywhere, not just on the football field, which he described as "vile behaviour".

“The FA, Premier League and English Football League have significantly stepped up their efforts, but we expect them to continue to prioritise this issue and to consult with both players and supporter groups, and we will be monitoring how the football authorities implement their plans through the season," he added.

“We will continue working with the authorities on this, including the Professional Footballers’ Association and we don’t rule out taking further steps if required.”

Rudiger indicated the abuse to the match referee. Credit: Sky Sports/PA

Sport minister Nigel Adams will be meeting Tottenham Hotspur directors following the allegations.

Calls have been made for the Government to open an investigation into racism in football after ugly scenes marred the Premier League clash.

Spurs have vowed to investigate after Chelsea defender Rudiger reported being targeted with monkey chants during the second half of his team’s 2-0 win at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium.

The Professional Footballers Association (PFA) said it was “dismayed and disgusted” at the claims of abuse in north London and pushed for a Government inquiry.

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“The PFA calls for a government inquiry into racism and the rise in hate crime within football, and immediate and urgent action,” said the representative body.

Mr Adams confirmed he would be meeting with the club on Monday.

“Depressing to see today’s events at White Hart Lane,” he tweeted.

“I welcome Spurs investigation and will be speaking with the club’s directors tomorrow.

“There is no place for racism or any kind of discrimination in football or anywhere else.”

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Labour said Premier League football clubs that failed to weed out racist fans should have to play at empty grounds.

Shadow sports minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan said: “Another instance of racism today. It wasn’t acceptable during Eng vs Bulgaria and it’s not acceptable now.

“If clubs don’t find perpetrators they should play matches behind closed doors.”

Tottenham MP David Lammy – tipped to run in the upcoming Labour leadership contest – said he was “appalled to hear about racist incidents by Spurs fans” and urged for the culprits to be “punished”.

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After the incident was reported to referee Anthony Taylor, an announcement was read out three times via the stadium Tannoy stating that “racist behaviour among spectators is interfering with the game”.

Speaking after the match, Chelsea boss Frank Lampard said he would be "100% behind" his players if they wanted to walk off the pitch amid any future racism storm.

In an impassioned plea following the clash, former England defender and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville said players should walk off the pitch if they heard racism emanating from the crowd.

The ex-Manchester United star pointed the finger at Britain’s two main political parties, the Conservatives and Labour, for allowing racism to prosper in their own ranks.

Boris Johnson’s Tories have been dogged by allegations of Islamophobia in recent years, and Labour has struggled to purge its membership of those accused of being anti-Semitic.

Sky Sports commentator Gary Neville hit out after the game. Credit: John Walton/PA

Neville said: “We have just had an election in this country where both main parties and the leaders of both main parties are accused constantly over the last month of fuelling racism and accepting racism within their parties.

“If it is accepted at the highest office in the country, we are not talking about it at a micro level – we are talking about it at an absolutely enormous level, the highest office in the country.

“We maybe have to empower the players to walk off the pitch and stop the entertainment while it’s happening because that’s the only way I can see it changing.”

After he made the comments, Sky Sports distanced themselves from the political nature of the criticisms, clarifying that they were personally-held views.

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor and devout Liverpool fan, echoed Neville’s calls for players to abandon matches in response to racism.

Rudiger, Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori celebrate their side's 2-0 win. Credit: AP

He tweeted: “I fully agree with @GNev2. The Premier League and FA have to start taking more effective action against home grown racism at matches in this country.

“We thought we had largely eradicated this scourge but there have been too many new incidences taking place in recent games.”

A spokesman for Tottenham Hotspur said: “Any form of racism is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our stadium.”

The club said it would take the “strongest possible action” against fans found to have engaged in abuse, including bans from the newly-built £1 billion stadium.

The Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport has been contacted for comment.

Following scenes of racist chanting when England played Bulgaria in a World Cup qualifier overseas, Prime Minister branded the culprits “vile” and said such behaviour had “no place in football or anywhere else”.