A toe curling encounter between a pundit and a TV host just gave the fight against racism in the world’s biggest soccer league a renewed purpose

Gary Neville during a speech about racism in British soccer on Sunday.

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Gary Neville during a speech about racism in British soccer on Sunday.
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SKy Sports
  • British soccer experienced a sharp reminder on Sunday that racism is prevalent in the Premier League, after new anti-racism tactics were used for the first time.
  • Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger reported hearing monkey noises from fans during a game against Tottenham Hotspur.
  • But an interaction after the game in an analysis segment on Sky Sports showed just how steep the road is in the fight to eliminate racism in the league.
  • Sky Sports host David Jones intervened during a monologue slamming racism by pundit Gary Neville, clarifying that Neville’s anti-racist words were his own views and not those of Sky Sports.
  • The move was met with disgust on social media, with many saying Sky’s decision indicates just how lazy British soccer is in the fight against racism.
  • Jones later said the disclaimer related to comments Neville made suggesting British politicians are to blame, and were made to ensure Sky maintained its political impartially, which is mandated by UK law.
  • The interaction is a landmark moment in the fight against racism in British soccer, indicating that broadcasters would rather be cautious and keep out of the campaign.
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A Premier League soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea on Sunday saw FIFA’s new anti-racism protocol used for the first time in the UK.

Twice during the game Chelsea’s Dutch defender Antonio Rudiger, who is black, told the referee via his captain that he was subject to racist abuse, specifically monkey noises.

“Racist behaviour among spectators is interfering with the game,” a first announcement rang out over the loudspeaker at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Chelsea defender Antonia Rudiger signals that he has heard monkey noises in the crowd on Sunday's game.

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Chelsea defender Antonia Rudiger signals that he has heard monkey noises in the crowd on Sunday’s game.
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Sky Sports

10 minutes later, a second announcement sounded: “Please remember that there is no room for racism in football.”

FIFA’s new protocol allows referees to abandon games after a third stadium warning if racist abuse doesn’t stop.

Sunday’s game will be remembered as a landmark not just because of the new FIFA protocol, but because of an interaction between a broadcaster and pundit during post-match analysis on Sky Sports.

Gary Neville, a former Manchester United defender, decried racism in the Premier League, soccer in general, and the broader UK in an impassioned monologue.

Neville was lauded for his statement on social media. Watch it here:

“We have a racism problem in the Premier League, in England, and the Premier League have got to stand up,” Neville said.

“They hide behind the FA, the Premier League, on this issue, they hide behind the FA, in my opinion. They push disciplinary issues to the FA.”

But the reaction to the statement from Sky Sports presenter David Jones indicates just how far British football, including how it is televised, has to go in the quest to eliminate racism.

Sky Sports presenter David Jones (far left) and pundit Gary Neville (far right) on Sunday.

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Sky Sports presenter David Jones (far left) and pundit Gary Neville (far right) on Sunday.
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Sky Sports

“I am compelled to say that they are the opinions of you, Gary Neville, and not those of Sky Sports,” Jones said, implying that he was told to make the statement by his employer. “That is my duty.”

Jones’s interjection riled many on social media, who said it was deplorable that Sky had reduced the impact of an important speech about an issue which is indisputably wrong.

Jones later clarified on Twitter the caveat was a direct response to one of Neville’s points, which was that Britain’s political leaders were to blame for normalizing racism in the UK. As a broadcaster, Sky is bound by strict impartiality laws regarding British politics, which mean it cannot be seen to favor any particular political party.

“I would never purposefully shut down a discussion on racism. I’ve worked for Sky for over 20 years and know they share my view that racism of any kind should not be tolerated. That is not a debate. And that’s why I’m so very disappointed and sorry tonight,” Jones wrote in a second tweet.

The exchange can be considered a landmark moment in the Premier League era.

In the last 24 months, renowned black British players like Ian Wright and John Barnes have called out racism on several occasions, but Sunday’s exchange is the first of its kind, raising a larger question of what broadcasters and sporting bodies should be doing to end racism.

The reaction to Sky’s intervention shows that fans want broadcasters to do more to combat racism, and for pundits to use their considerable influence to affect change.

Chelsea won the game 2-0.