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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 April, 2004, 19:04 GMT 20:04 UK
Atkinson quits over racist slur
Ron Atkinson
Atkinson has won awards for his work as a pundit
Football pundit Ron Atkinson has left ITV and the Guardian over a racist comment about a black Chelsea player.

ITV said Atkinson was "devastated and very sorry" after a comment made in the wake of Chelsea's Champions League game against Monaco on Tuesday.

His contract to write a weekly column for the Guardian has been terminated by "mutual agreement", the newspaper said.

Atkinson told BBC Radio Five Live he did not remember making the comment about Marcel Desailly.

The comment was heard on some Middle East channels which broadcast a live feed after ITV went off-air.

I was talking to myself really - just having a pop
Ron Atkinson

"To the people I offended, particularly Marcel Desailly, I would apologise for the comments I made," Atkinson said.

"It was not an intentional comment, but it was an unfortunate one.

"I did not even know I had said it.

"I have worked with more black players, I would think, than any other manager in the country and I bet none of them has ever heard me say it to them."

Regrettable lapse

An ITV spokesman added: "We do not in any way condone the comments.

"It was a regrettable lapse by a respected and experienced broadcaster who has been part of the ITV sports team for many years.

"We have discussed the situation with Ron Atkinson, who is devastated and very sorry for any offence caused by his comments.

Desailly (blue shirt) in action during the game against Monaco
Desailly (blue shirt) in action during the game against Monaco
"He immediately offered his resignation which we have accepted."

Atkinson has provided summaries at five World Cups and six European Championships for ITV.

During his coaching career, particularly at West Brom, he nurtured the talent of black players such as Cyrille Regis, Brendan Batson and Laurie Cunningham.

Batson admitted he was "very disappointed" with the racist comments made by Atkinson.

"He's fallen on his sword you might say and everybody just has to get on with it now," he added.

"I was very disappointed to hear that these comments had come from Ron because he is someone who has been a big supporter of black players in this country.

"I never heard him say anything like that when he was my manager."

Absolutely disgusted

Former Arsenal player Ian Wright, who now works as a TV and radio soccer pundit, said he was "absolutely disgusted" by Atkinson's comments.

In an interview on BBC Radio Five Live's Drive programme, he said: "What really gets me is, I've heard him interviewed and he said he took his mic off and he took his headphones off, so does that make it all right?"

"What he's done is a major, major mistake. I'll still shake him by the hand - I'm sure he's learned a very costly lesson."

But Carlton Palmer, who was an integral member of Mr Atkinson's Sheffield Wednesday side, defended his former manager.

He said: "I'm black and I'm sitting here and I'm gonna stand up for Big Ron not because he's a friend of mine, I'm standing up for him because I know what he's like as a bloke.

"If we're going to deal with racism then let's deal with the bigger picture of racism not about a throwaway comment that wasn't meant in that manner."

The BBC's James Munro
"Neither Marcel Desailly or his club Chelsea have made any comment"

Monaco 3-1 Chelsea
20 Apr 04  |  Champions League
Footballers speak out over racism
15 Apr 04  |  Education


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