The Professional Footballers’ Association says it stands “shoulder to shoulder” with Raheem Sterling following an incident of alleged racist abuse at Chelsea on Saturday.
During the game at Stamford Bridge, television cameras showed a Chelsea supporter shouting the alleged abuse at Manchester City forward Sterling.
Chelsea and the Metropolitan Police are both investigating the incident, which took place in the first half as Sterling went to collect the ball from behind the goal line.
The PFA issued a statement that said: “The PFA condemn, in the strongest terms, the increase in racial abuse our members have been receiving from the terraces. We encourage all clubs to take the strongest possible action for fans found guilty of racially abusing players.
“Over the past two weeks, we have seen two alleged high-profile racist incidents happen from the stands at Premier League games. We stress to all clubs the importance of dealing with these incidents robustly. It is not acceptable for our members to find themselves subject to racist abuse, simply for showing up to work and performing for their team.
“This weekend, following the video footage appearing to show a fan shouting racist abuse at Raheem Sterling, we have been in close contact with his agent, and extend our full support to Raheem.
“We commend Raheem for his professionalism during the incident and the statement he made via Instagram on Sunday.
“We stand with him in calling for the press to consider the coverage of all footballers carefully, and to end their imbalanced coverage aimed at young, black players.
“We have been aware for a few months of the targeting Raheem faces in the press, it is evident that he is often singled out and treated more harshly than his colleagues. As such, these stories are fuelling racism within the game, as reports of racist abuse continue to rise.
“In November, anti-discrimination charity – and PFA funded partner – Kick It Out released figures that showed reports of discriminatory abuse within football were up 11 per cent last season (2017/18), the sixth successive annual rise. Of the 520 reported incidents, 53 per cent were racism related – a 22 per cent increase from the previous season.
“While it may be true that no racial slurs have been used in the press coverage received by Raheem and others, we are in no doubt that the negative narrative influences public opinion and emboldens racist rhetoric.”
Simone Pound, PFA Head of Equality and Diversity, said: “Football is a microcosm of society and incidents such as this highlight the current political climate.
“Raheem has made a stand by speaking out and we stand shoulder to shoulder with him against the discrimination of which he speaks. We all have a part to play in tackling racism and discrimination and certain sectors of the media must be held to account.
“The PFA are resolute in their work, challenging and tackling equality issues on behalf of the players.”