Fifa president urged to step down after saying footballers suffering abuse on the pitch should 'shake hands' afterwards
Fifa president Sepp Blatter is facing a chorus of criticism as players, managers, politicians and anti-racism campaigners called on him to step down over his suggestion that racist abuse on the pitch could be settled with a handshake.
The sports minister, Hugh Robertson, and the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, Gordon Taylor, urged Blatter to resign after he suggested there was no racism in football and that players subjected to abuse should say "this is a game" and shake hands afterwards. David Cameron backed Robertson's call for Blatter to resign, describing Blatter's claims that racism on the pitch is not a problem as "appalling", adding that there was "no time for complacency" when it came to stamping it out.
Rio Ferdinand launched a scathing attack on the Fifa boss via Twitter. The Manchester United defender said Blatter's comments were "so condescending it's almost laughable", and he criticised the world football governing body for trying to "clear up the Blatter comments with a pic of him posing with a black man".
Blatter's remarks in interviews with CNN and al-Jazeera this week were particularly incendiary given two high-profile ongoing Football Association inquiries into allegations of racism.
Liverpool's Luis Suárez was charged on Wednesday with racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra. He denies it. England captain John Terry is the subject of an FA investigation and police inquiries into whether he racially abused Queens Park Rangers' Anton Ferdinand, Rio's brother. Terry denies the allegations.
Robertson called on Blatter to resign immediately. "This is the latest episode that calls into question whether this man should be the head of world football. For the sake of the game, he should go. We have been consistent in calls for improved governance at Fifa and this underlines the need for that once more. We must never be complacent in our efforts to tackle racism."
Ed Miliband, said: "I think Sepp Blatter's comments are a disgrace, frankly, and I think football needs new leadership. I don't think he has shown in the remarks he has made recently, or indeed his record, that he can provide that leadership for world football."
Blatter, Fifa president since 1998, has made various gaffes and has faced a serious crisis with corruption claims levelled at the organisation amid calls for wholesale reform.
Lord Herman Ouseley, chairman of the anti-racist campaign group Kick It Out, said: "To say Sepp Blatter's comments are unhelpful is an understatement. He has no understanding of what racism is, the ideology behind it, the damage it causes and how it subjugates one group of people as inferior."
But with only limited reporting of Blatter's comments in other countries, Fifa insiders said the furore was only likely to feed the president's belief that the British media was out to get him. This belief intensified in the runup to last year's World Cup vote, when Fifa was rocked by corruption claims, and again prior to his re-election in June.