Chelsea would back racism rule change
Chelsea would adhere to any rule change that would see players sacked for racist abuse, despite the Blues' refusal to kick out John Terry, manager Roberto Di Matteo vowed Friday.
Di Matteo was coy about whether he fully endorsed the Professional Footballers' Association's six-point plan to combat racism, which has been drawn up in the wake of the Terry scandal. But the Italian insisted Chelsea would follow it to the letter if it had the backing of the majority of clubs.
"It's a difficult one," he said. "If the majority believe that we need a law like that then, as I said, we will obey it and support it. If it will become a rule, we will play by the rules, as we have always done. As a club, we are against any kind of discrimination and, if it does go through then we will support it."
Chelsea came under heavy fire for merely fining Terry after he was found guilty by the Football Association of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand just over a year ago.
The various punishments meted out to the Blues captain prompted a backlash among some black players toward both the club and the anti-racism movement.
"Everybody has an opinion and we must respect that," Di Matteo added. "We behave the way we think is right for our club and that's how we're going to go forward."
Some players took direct action by refusing to wear T-shirts endorsing the "Kick It Out" campaign during last week's fixtures, including Anton and Rio Ferdinand.
It is Chelsea's turn to sport them during the warm-up before Sunday's Premier League game against Manchester United.
"We are supporting the Kick It Out campaign," Di Matteo said. "It's going to be an individual choice for our players. We're not going to force anybody to, or not to, wear it. But my personal opinion is that we should wear it and we should raise awareness about it and show the support for it."
QPR boss Mark Hughes expects Anton Ferdinand to continue his boycott of the Kick it Out T-shirt ahead of his side's game at Arsenal on Saturday.
"I've not discussed it with him this week," Hughes said. "Obviously he didn't last weekend and nothing's changed to any great extent. Statements have been made. I'm not sure if Anton or any of the other guys who felt that they didn't want to wear the T-shirt will wear it. The majority of the squad will (wear it)."
Hughes also backed the PFA's six-point plan.
"Well there were a number of points, some had merits and others maybe need more discussion but the key point to it is that people are now discussing issues that a number people think should have been addressed in more detail and at greater length then more things would have been solved before we got to this point," Hughes said. "It is a good thing that the PFA have understood that and want to be seen to be moving the process forward and that is obviously what this proposal looks like doing."
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers also backed the PFA's proposal, and in particular the drive to consider the NFL's Rooney Rule to increase the number of coaches and managers from minorities in the English game.
"Anything that promotes fair play in terms of jobs and work is very important," he said. "There is an awful lot of great work that has gone on in this country over the last 20-odd years and it has moved on a hell of a lot. But you can't become complacent with it and it is certainly something where we must keep ensuring that the standards are correct. For people to get work and jobs, it is the best candidate who should get it -- no matter what religion, race or creed you are, you shouldn't be discriminated against."
Asked if all his players would wear T-shirts supporting Kick It Out this weekend, Rodgers added: "Yes. We obviously had our game with that (at home against Reading last weekend), and now it is Everton's game this weekend. But we will support that."
The last few days appear to have heralded the first signs of peace breaking out between the Ferdinand brothers and Chelsea pair Terry and Ashley Cole.
Cole, who gave evidence in support of Terry at his criminal trial, was branded a "choc ice" by United's Ferdinand in the wake of the not guilty verdict in those proceedings.
There were fears the pair would not shake hands before Sunday's game but both appear prepared to do so.
"I've always said that from our point of view, we'll play our part," Di Matteo said. "I don't foresee any problems in that sense. I hope that all the players will shake hands."
There have also been suggestions Ferdinand was prepared to offer his hand to former England defensive partner Terry at Stamford Bridge, even though the latter is still serving his racism ban.
Confirming Terry would be at the game, Di Matteo said he would endorse such a gesture, saying: "I'm always for that, yes."
However, that may not prevent Chelsea fans abusing Ferdinand, as they did during last season's 3-3 draw with United, which took place during the height of the feud between him and Terry.
"Our fans have been very good, generally, very supportive of our team and respectful," Di Matteo said. "I cannot comment on how every individual supporter in the stadium will react. But I'm sure they'll support our team and push them to a win."
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson earlier welcomed this week's public declaration of peace from the Ferdinand family but acknowledged the racism issue would not disappear just because of a handshake on Sunday.
"Rio and Anton did the right thing," he said. "But the race issue is bubbling along. It's not just completely gone away. The awareness is getting stronger and the PFA are doing their best to support it. But the FA, UEFA and FIFA have got to do more. That is without question. As far as the actual game itself, I think we just need to carry on and concentrate on the football side."
Information from Press Association was used in this report.