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Montenegro v England: Tackling racism in society must come first, warns Barnes

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Banning Montenegro or calling for players to walk off the pitch when they hear racist abuse is not the answer to football's problems, according to former England winger John Barnes.

England's 5-1 win in Montenegro on Monday was overshadowed by several of their black players being racially abused by home fans.

"It can't be tolerated but we've got it the wrong way around," said Barnes.

"You can't get rid of it in football before you get rid of it in society."

Barnes, who played 79 times for England and suffered racist abuse throughout his career, added: "It's hypocritical for us in this country to look at Montenegro and say how terrible it is when it happens every week in this country.

"Try to figure out a way to stop people wanting to boo because someone is black. Let's look at what's going on in society and try to tackle it."

There have been suggestions that Montenegro should have points deducted from their European Championship qualifying campaign, or be excluded from the competition.

After Monday's match, England boss Gareth Southgate was asked whether he should have taken his team off the pitch, but Barnes does not feel either option is practical.

"If we want to throw teams out then I will go along with that but this is the problem - do not just pick on Montenegro, pick on everybody," he said.

"Should Chelsea be thrown out the Premier League for racist abuse of Raheem Sterling? And it's not just Chelsea, I'm sure it happens at Liverpool as well and I'm sure at every football stadium there will be racist abuse.

"Walking off, for me, is not the answer. Who decides what you've heard? How many people do you have to hear? One? So if you hear one everybody walks off? Or does it have to be 10 or does it have to be 100? Who decides?

"Is it a black player or a white player that is going to walk off? If a black player doesn't walk off does that make it OK for the white players? Or are they culpable because they don't walk off?"

However, Troy Townsend, head of development for anti-racism charity Kick It Out, disagreed with Barnes and questioned whether European football's governing body Uefa was "brave enough" to ban teams from competitions.

"What I would like is stadium closures, expulsions from competitions, federations held accountable for not just the players but the supporters in their care," said Townsend.

"The first time that happens [expulsion from a tournament] it will send a massive message out that this is not acceptable any more.

"I believe there will be a time when we will get to a stage where players will take the matter into their own hands, and managers will do what is right for those players and consider the fact that maybe it's not worth it just for three points."

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