T-shirt row 'should start debate'
PFA chairman and Kick It Out ambassador Clarke Carlisle hopes the decision of some players not to wear anti-racism t-shirts will prompt discussions rather than punishments.
Several players, including Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand and his brother Anton, declined to wear the Kick It Out t-shirts, apparently unhappy with what they consider a lack of progress. Rio Ferdinand's decision brought strong criticism from United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who promised the player would be "dealt with".
"Sir Alex Ferguson is trying to reaffirm his unwavering support of the Kick It Out campaign and that's fantastic," Carlisle told Press Association Sport. "But this should not be seen as player versus club or dissension from a player against their employer."
He added: "Sir Alex Ferguson pointed out in his own interview he did not know why Jason Roberts or any other player would not want to wear the t-shirt, so I hope that conversation takes place in the next couple of days."
Anton Ferdinand was the victim of racial abuse from Chelsea skipper John Terry in a league match last October, with Terry accepting a four-match suspension and £220,000 fine relating to the incident earlier this week.
Carlisle said he had spoken to a number of the players who chose not to wear the t-shirt, and had listened to their concerns.
"This is a group of players who are trying to make a statement," he said. "This is not a problem with Kick It Out per se, though they would like Kick It Out to be more vocal and authoritative."
The Premier League has confirmed its backing for the Kick It Out campaign.
A Premier League spokesman said: "We are long-term supporters and funding partners of Kick It Out and respect both the quality of their work and their independence. They have played an integral part in the progress made to promote equality and tackle discrimination in the English game.
"In the Premier League huge efforts have been made to make football more inclusive. Fans from black and minority ethnic communities now make up 13 per cent of our match attenders, a figure that has grown every year for the last five years."