U.K. "shaken" by racial abuse in sports

Liverpool's Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez (left) exchanges words with Manchester United's French defender Patrice Evra during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield in Liverpool, north-west England, on October 15, 2011. French and British media quoted Evra after the game as telling French broadcaster Canal+ that Suarez had racially abused him several times during the match. ANDREW YATES/AFP/Getty Images

LONDON - A British parliamentary committee will investigate racism in sports following a number of high-profile cases in soccer.

England captain John Terry will appear in court next month to face a criminal charge after allegedly directing racial abuse at a black opponent while playing for Chelsea.

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez is serving an eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra during another Premier League match in October. Liverpool also had to apologize to an Oldham player who was reduced to tears by insults from their fans during an FA Cup match on Friday.

The culture, media and sport committee will hold a hearing on March 6 to listen to people involved in the recent cases.

"It is worrying that there does appear to have been a number of incidents recently," culture, media and sport committee chairman John Whittingdale said in a phone interview. "The hope that racism on and off the pitch in football was a thing of the past has been shaken by some of the incidents that have occurred. This is obviously something we regard very seriously.

"The committee felt it was right to look at the whole issue to establish what is being done to counter (racism) and what more might be done."

In November, FIFA President Sepp Blatter caused an uproar in Englandwhen he said racist abuse does not exist on the soccer field and that any racial incidents could be settled by a handshake at the end of a match.

Blatter apologized after he was was ridiculed in Britain for his comments. British Prime Minister David Cameron joined a wave of condemnation, and David Beckham called the Blatter statements "appalling." A top British soccer official also urged Blatter to resign.

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Terry is due to appear in court on Feb. 1 to face a criminal charge after allegedly racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League match in October.

Also in October, Suarez was found to have called Evra "Negro" or "Negros" seven times, resulting in a seven-match ban and $62,000 fine.

Liverpool was criticized by anti-racism groups for allowing the squad and manager Kenny Dalglish to wear T-shirts featuring Suarez's picture in a show of solidarity after the accusations.

"It would be interesting (at the hearing) not just to hear from football administrators, but from players, ex-players and the clubs," said CMS committee member Damian Collins, a Conservative Party legislator. "We are interested in finding out if there is a growing problem, an underlying problem, that's been hidden or if those are one or two isolated events.

"A huge stride has been taken in the last 20-30 years to improve race relations in the UK ... we are surprised this has come back in the way it has."

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