Social media websites, and particularly micro-blogging site Twitter, can help combat racism in football, a report published today suggests.

Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra (Reuters)

The report, by the culture, media and sport select committee, suggested that the role of social media should be changed so that instead of being a forum for spreading abusive comment, it could be a "potential means of combating the ignorance and prejudice that lies behind such behaviour."

The Racism in Football report says that the atmosphere at football matches has greatly improved since the 1970s and 1980s. However, the report said that there remain "significant problems ranging from homophobic abuse to what is often described as 'laddish behaviour' on the terraces."

John Whittingdale MP, chair of the committee, said: "Recent incidents of racist abuse in the UK, both on and off the pitch, have highlighted the fact that there remain significant problems.

There is much more that can and must be done, and we believe it is for the FA to take the lead and set the example for everyone. John Whittingdale MP

"We heard evidence that social media has become a tool for the spread of racist and abusive content but it is also a potential means of combating the ignorance and prejudice that lie behind such behaviour.

"We believe that the football authorities should be using this developing forum for communication and debate, to spread positive messages about equality and diversity and also to speak out strongly against instances of racist abuse when they occur."

John Terry (Reuters)

In a recent, high-profile incident of racism in football, Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was given an eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.

England and Chelsea defender John Terry was found not guilty of racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand following a trial in July this year (pictured, right).

FA should take lead

The report emphasises that the Football Association should take the lead in the fight against racism in the game.

Mr Whittingdale said: "While the general level of progress in combating racism and racist abuse in the UK is positive and should be applauded, there is much more that can and must be done, and we believe it is for the FA to take the lead and set the example for everyone, from football authorities at all levels to the grassroots groups, to follow."

A joint statement from the FA, the Premier League and the Football League said: "We remain committed, along with all of our stakeholders, to promoting equality and diversity within the game and to the eradication of all forms of discrimination in football.

"We will continue to work across the entire breadth of the sport to deliver our inclusion and anti-discrimination agenda. In doing so, we will consider in detail how the committee's recommendations can support and influence this work."

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