Tom Watson: Harsh sentences needed for those who racially abuse footballers
Tom Watson has called for harsh sentences for anyone found to have racially abused football players.
Labour's deputy leader said he wanted to see "football hate speech" given a higher priority as he unveiled a range of measures in a bid to "battle bigotry" in the sport.
His intervention comes after a series of incidents where footballers have been discriminated against in football grounds and over social media.
Watford players Troy Deeney, Adrian Mariappa and Christian Kabasele say they suffered racist abuse after their club's FA Cup semi-final win over Wolves, while racist chanting was directed England players during the recent Euro 2020 qualifier in Montenegro.
Addressing the Commons, West Bromwich East MP and Shadow Culture Secretary Mr Watson praised players such as Tottenham and England defender Danny Rose for showing bravery by speaking out against racism.
"But they shouldn’t have to be brave, they are just trying to do their jobs," he said.
Mr Watson said he wanted to see stewards work more closely with police to identify offenders, intervene early and "gather good evidence to facilitate arrests and charges".
"The Ministry of Justice could encourage the CPS to give football hate speech a higher priority and employ harsh sentences," he added.
Other measures include increasing funding for education programmes such as those run by Show Racism the Red Card, while the MP also called for "hate crime aimed at sporting figures" to be included in the 'online harms' consultation on internet regulation.
Mr Watson also said more needed to be done to stamp out "other types of bigotry like homophobia and sectarianism".
"The vast majority of fans abhor discrimination of any kind," he said.
"A small number of thugs who propagate this vile bigotry ruin football for the players and millions of fans who love the game.
"Discrimination of any kind has no place in football."