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Wednesday, January 21, 1998 Published at 19:48 GMT

Sport: Football

Mellor retaliates in 'race' row
image: [ David Mellor: refuses to start
David Mellor: refuses to start "looking over his shoulder"

The head of the UK's Football Task Force, David Mellor, has hit back in the controversy with Geoffrey Richmond, by declaring that he is "profoundly suspicious" of the Bradford City chairman's assertion that at least 52 clubs are calling for his resignation.

On Tuesday, Bradford named the 52 clubs they said were supporting their campaign to oust Mellor following his comments on his BBC Radio 5 Live programme, in which he questioned whether black manager Chris Kamara's colour had been an issue in his sacking by the first division club.

Only Wimbledon and Chester were said to have supported Mellor. But a straw poll of the clubs concerned by the Press Association has indicated that Bradford do not appear to enjoy the level of backing they initially believed they had.

Out of nine clubs named by Bradford, five said they should not have been on the list, although four others were still calling for him either to be sacked or for his position to be questioned.

The clubs

Swindon Town chairman Rikki Hunt said that after finally listening to the radio interview, they were not calling for Mellor's resignation after initially indicating they may be.

Brighton chairman Dick Knight was quoted as saying he did not feel Mellor should go, and Leicester said their chairman Tom Smeaton had not yet given his response to Bradford as he had not yet heard a tape of the show.

Huddersfield club secretary Alan Sykes said the club believed Mr Mellor's comments had been "ill-advised" but they were not asking for him to be sacked, while Birmingham City managing director Karren Brady said she believed their chairman had called for Mellor to apologise but had not discussed the question of his resignation.

Southampton, Bury, Oxford and Stockport all said they still supported Bradford, while Everton would not reveal the nature of their correspondence with Richmond, and Stoke declined to comment.

Banks' backing

Mellor, who has been backed by Sports Minister Tony Banks, said: "I am profoundly suspicious of Mr Richmond's assertion that all these people back him and I believe there is a large element of optimism and wishful thinking in his assessment of who supports him.

"The day I start looking over my shoulder worrying about what football clubs think is the day I pack it in as I would then not be doing my job looking after the travelling fan."

Bradford pointed out that they had printed the names of the clubs in good faith, following 27 letters of support and many more telephone conversations, and would be updating their list next week as promised when other clubs may commit themselves in their favour.

Managing director Shaun Harvey said: "We stand by our sources and the people that the information was collected from in relation to the club's supporting the removal of David Mellor.

"We will update the list in seven days' time, as promised. If clubs do retract or remove their support then we will reflect that. We only want to deal in facts."

Harvey said "very strong" letters of support had been received from, among others - Newcastle, York, Port Vale, Southend, Blackpool, Darlington, Rochdale, Rotherham and Carlisle.


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