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British PM enters soccer row

13 February 2012, 17:41

London - British Prime Minister David Cameron is set to enter the row on racism within English football by calling a Downing Street meeting to discuss the issue.

According to several reports in the British press, Cameron and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt are to hold a "round table discussion" with football officials and players' representatives later this month.

Cameron's intervention comes following some high-profile incidents.

Controversy was stirred Saturday when Liverpool striker Luis Suarez refused to shake hands with Manchester United's Patrice Evra before their clubs' match at Old Trafford.

Suarez has only recently returned for Liverpool after serving an eight-match ban for racially abusing Evra during a game in October.

Meanwhile Chelsea's John Terry has been stripped of the England captaincy while he awaits a criminal trial on charges of racially abusing QPR's Anton Ferdinand. Terry denies the charges.

At a charity reception last month, Cameron said: "My message is clear: we will not tolerate racism in Britain. It has absolutely no place in our society and where it exists, we will kick it out.

"Our football governing bodies, clubs and footballers themselves have a vital role to play as role models in this respect."

Suarez later apologised to Evra for refusing to shake hands but the Uruguay forward was still subjected to a strong dressing down from his club as Liverpool finally tried to bring an end to the simmering race row on Sunday.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had branded Suarez a disgrace, while Professional Footballers' Association chief Gordon Taylor called the Liverpool star's actions "disrespectful, inappropriate and embarrassing".

Suarez finally showed some contrition Sunday.

"I have spoken with the manager (Kenny Dalglish) since the game at Old Trafford and I realise I got things wrong," Suarez said on Liverpool's official website.

"I've not only let him down, but also the club and what it stands for and I'm sorry. I made a mistake and I regret what happened.

"I should have shaken Patrice Evra's hand before the game and I want to apologise for my actions."

Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre led the criticism of Suarez.

"We are extremely disappointed Luis Suarez did not shake hands with Patrice Evra. The player had told us beforehand that he would, but then chose not to do so," Ayre said.

"He has not only let himself down, but also Kenny Dalglish, his team-mates and the club."

Suarez's actions lit the fuse on an always volatile fixture and police and stewards were reportedly called into the tunnel area to calm the situation after Evra tried to confront his rival at half-time.

Suarez scored in the 80th minute with Liverpool trailing 2-0, but United held on to win and Evra embarked on a wild post-match celebration that saw him appear to taunt the South American by celebrating right next to him.

- Sapa

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