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Severe penalties proposed for racist abuse

Racist abuse during matches would cost football clubs championship points under proposals drawn up by a Football Association working party, reports The Times. It will recommend that football tribunals be set up to examine allegations of racist and religious abuse and other "off the pitch issues" at matches at all levels of the game.

The recommendations will be presented this year in a report by the working party on tackling Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in football. The group is chaired by John Mann, the Labour MP.

The aim is to eradicate the kind of abuse that falls below the threshold of criminal prosecution but could merit civil disciplinary measures.

Mr Mann told The Times: "We have seen the problem with the English football team getting racist abuse in places such as Spain and Croatia. Points sanctions are one of the options. It could cost clubs a place in the European Championship, or relegation."

He said that the depth of religious and racist discrimination in football was one of the reasons that so few Muslims become involved in the sport or attended matches, even though a majority of Muslims in Britain list football as their favourite sport.

Some clubs, such as Millwall, Ipswich Town, Nottingham Forest and Southampton, have introduced confidential text messaging for fans to report racist or other abuse on match days. Hull City expels fans from the grounds for being abusive.

Mr Mann said that the problem was just as bad in junior and amateur clubs. "There is some extraordinarily outdated racism at the lower, grassroots levels of football which, if it was in the work place, no employer would tolerate. The issue is abuse from the touchline, especially from parents and spectators. It is not surprising there are virtually no home-grown Jewish or Muslim football players in Britain."

An FA spokesman said: "It's already in the FA's power to deduct points. However, this would only ever happen for discrimination for very serious chants involving a large number of fans and where it's persistent."

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