sport

FA chief calls for no fear

David Bernstein has insisted that no player should be afraid of coming out as gay after the FA agreed an action plan to tackle discrimination.

Under the plan agreed by the FA Board on Thursday, clubs will face sanctions for failing to deal with racism and discrimination by players, coaches or their fans.

The FA also says it will strive for at least 10% of referees and level one coaches coming from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Players and coaches arriving from abroad will have to undergo mandatory induction lessons to ensure they are aware of the "British cultural environment".

The plan, which will now be submitted to the Government, follows a Downing Street summit called in February after the Luis Suarez and John Terry racial abuse cases.

FA chairman Bernstein said: "This is a very important day. Ensuring the game is inclusive and combats discrimination has been - and remains - at the top of my agenda.

"There remain challenges ahead in this area and all of football would agree we need to find more ways of developing more black and ethnic minority coaches and creating pathways for them.

"Equally, no football player should fear coming out as gay at the risk of suffering discrimination and we continue to strengthen our support programmes to ensure the game is open to all regardless of their sexuality.

"The over-riding message remains that there is simply no place for any form of discrimination in football."

The action plan has been agreed by the FA, Premier League, Football League, Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), the League Managers' Association (LMA) and referees' bodies.

Both the PFA and LMA say they would be in favour of players and managers having it made clear in their contracts they would face action for racist language.

The plan states the organisations would support "standard clauses that address discriminatory language and behaviour, in managers and coaches' contracts."

In relation to possible action against clubs, the plan states the FA would work "with the Premier League and Football League to sanction clubs who repeatedly fail to sanction their employees, who breach their contract or code of conduct, or deal inadequately with fans in relation to discriminatory language or behaviour."

The action plan should be implemented immediately, say the FA - and certainly underway by next season.

The FA will set up an 'Inclusion Advisory Board' to oversee the action plan, and will also call "on UEFA to consider minimum standard codes of conduct" as part of the European governing body's club licensing system.

There have been suggestions that a miminum five-match ban will be brought in for racism but that is some way down the line - it will be considered by a working group.

The action plan states it will "review the sanctions regime to ensure that it is timely, appropriate, proportionate and effective at all levels".

It also calls for the recruitment process for managers and coaches to be reviewed with a voluntary code set up.

Culture secretary Maria Miller weclomed the action plan.

She said: "While we have made significant progress in this area over the last two decades, recent incidents have shown a need for concerted action. "We want to see this action plan implemented and the football authorities to show strong leadership on anti-discrimination at both the professional and grassroots levels of the game. The sports minister will continue to work with the football authorities to make progress in this area."

Miller said she was "encouraged" by the proposals to improve the ethnic diversity of coaches.