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Players' union takes aim at racism

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson claims a 'communication problem' led to his bust up with Rio Ferdinand after the defender refused to wear a Kick It Out t-shirt on Saturday.

Facing growing criticism from players, the England Professional Footballers' Association on Wednesday proposed a six-point plan to tackle the continuing problems of racism in the game.

The PFA's six-point plan calls for tougher penalties for racist abuse, including making it potentially a sackable offense, mandatory awareness programs for offenders and the introduction of the Rooney Rule to boost the number of black coaches and managers.

But Joey Barton blasted PFA chief Gordon Taylor's leadership via Twitter, calling him a "fat, festering old king too drunk on power or wine to notice that his meal is a rotting corpse of maggots."

High-profile players including Rio and Anton Ferdinand and Joleon Lescott refused to wear T-shirts for the anti-discrimination campaign Kick It Out last weekend because they perceived a lack of action in recent cases of racism.

Barton also criticized his fellow players for inaction as well as for plotting a breakaway union.

Barton's Twitter tirade included this: "This could prove a pivotal point for the game and society beyond it. Footballers must be socially aware and not afraid to ask the 'race' Q?"

Last October during their visit to London, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney advised English Football Association officials on the benefits of adopting the Rooney Rule designed to create more opportunities for black and minority coaches.

Of the top 92 clubs in England, only four have black managers.

"What that has done is create more opportunities for African-American coaches and other minority coaches to become NFL head coaches because you've had to look at a broader slate of qualified individuals," Goodell said last year. "And that has been good for our game (and) it's good business. And that was exactly our message to the FA officials."

Taylor's six-point plan also calls for speedy action in claims of racism, stiffer penalties, Rooney Rule implementation, respect on all equality issues "such as gender, sexual orientation, disability, anti-Semitism, Islamophobie and Asians in football."

On Wednesday, Rio Ferdinand told the BBC he would support the Rooney Rule.

"Yeah, the more opportunities people have got - from whatever background they're from, the better," he said.

Taylor spoke out against a breakaway union for black players.

"If they want their own particular select group who they feel they can influence everybody more than the whole PFA as a union together, I would say they are seriously mistaken," Taylor said.

Former England striker Dion Dublin said questions should be asked over the lack of black and ethnic minority managers in the Premier League.

"There are so many black and ethnic minority players that may have been good enough to have been managers, but have they applied for these jobs? We don't know," Dublin said Wednesday. "If they have and have not got them, then why? It is either they are not good enough, or there is a race issue."

FA chairman David Bernstein announced Tuesday that the governing body will review the sanctions for racist abuse following the John Terry case but insisted the Chelsea's captain's four-match ban was "about right."

Former West Brom and Arsenal defender Brendon Batson has called on black players not to form a breakaway group.

Batson, a former PFA administrator, told BBC Radio Five: "I'd be really disappointed if there was a split and I don't think there would be any benefit."

Most of the points on the PFA action plan would have to be agreed by the FA and the leagues, such as disciplinary sanctions, courses and changes to contracts.

"We should all be in this together as one, but unfortunately of late, that has not been the case," Dublin said.

"There has been segregation within the camp on the field, and segregation within the camp in the terracing, and it has been brought to light that at the moment, we are not one."

Information from The Associated Press and Press Association was used in this report.

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