Portsmouth investigate alleged racism in England chat between academy players

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Portsmouth are investigating allegations that racist messages were posted about England players in the club’s academy under-18s group chat.

Screen shots purporting to be from the chat following Sunday’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final were widely circulated on social media on Wednesday morning, and the Sky Bet League One club are now looking into the matter.

A club statement read: “Portsmouth Football Club are aware of images circulating on social media that allegedly originate from an academy u18 group chat and which are discriminatory in nature.

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“The club have launched an immediate investigation and will provide an update once this has been completed.

“Portsmouth Football Club strongly condemn racism and are totally committed to the elimination of all forms of discrimination. There is no place for it in our game or society as a whole.”

It is understood the club have notified the EFL and Kick It Out in regard to the alleged discriminatory posts, but at present the club investigation is the only one taking place.

The investigation is being conducted by senior management at Portsmouth and it is understood that it centres on the one screen shot which has been widely circulated on social media, and that the club are not aware of any additional abuse within the chat.

Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were subjected to racist abuse on public social media platforms following Sunday’s defeat.

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The Football Association condemned the abuse and said it would do all it could to support the players affected.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told those who had abused England players to “crawl back under the rock from which you emerged”, and discussed the matter with social media companies on Tuesday.

Ahead of those discussions, a Downing Street spokesman said the Prime Minister would “reiterate the urgent need for action” and for the platforms to assist police investigations seeking to identify those suspected of perpetrating abuse.

But Number 10 also had to issue a defence of Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel over their earlier responses.

Aston Villa and England defender Tyrone Mings accused the Home Secretary of having managed to “stoke the fire” in the tournament by claiming the team’s taking of the knee against racism was “gesture politics”.

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Number 10 said Johnson opened a meeting of his Cabinet on Tuesday by condemning the racist attacks players were targeted with after Sunday’s match.

“He said the abuse was utterly disgraceful and had emerged from the dark spaces of the internet,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

Support for the England players has continued to be shown across the nation, with a petition to permanently ban racists from football matches passing a million signatures in just two days.

Shaista Aziz, Amna Abdullatif and Huda Jawad created the petition on Monday, calling for the FA and Government to work together to ban “all those who have carried out racist abuse, online or offline, from all football matches in England for life”.

The mural of Marcus Rashford
Support has been shown for Marcus Rashford (Danny Lawson/PA)

The trio of campaigners, who call themselves The Three Hijabis due to their heritage and dress, have seen their petition go viral.

“To go over one million… we feel validated in our resistance to racism and that what we have been able to articulate is the sentiment that is held nationwide,” Jawad, a feminist and anti-racism activist, told the PA news agency.

The Labour Party has also said courts must be given new powers to ban anyone convicted of online racist abuse from football matches.

On Tuesday night, hundreds of people took the knee beside a repaired mural of Rashford in a show of support for the striker.

Around 200 people including some with signs reading ‘Black Lives Matter’ made the symbolic gesture beside the recently vandalised artwork in south Manchester.

The mural was defaced within hours of England’s loss to Italy, in what police are treating as a racist incident.

Artist Akse P19 has since repainted his monochrome depiction of the England player.

Gareth Southgate consoles Bukayo Saka
Gareth Southgate and Bukayo Saka have both missed vital penalties for England (Mike Egerton/PA)

Meanwhile, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has said he believes Saka will quickly bounce back from the racist abuse he has received.

The 19-year-old’s club manager told Sky Sports he had personally spoken to Saka after England’s Wembley heartbreak, saying: “Yes, I have. We all have, I think, spoken to him, sent messages.

“He will be fine. He is such a strong character.

“He has received a lot of love and support from world football, not only with Arsenal but the national team and all the English fans because he doesn’t deserve anything like he has been through.”

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