Rodgers looks to Uefa and referee to act if any racial abuse of players
Brendan Rodgers has said it is the responsibility of Uefa and the referee to decide whether Liverpool leave the field in response to any racist abuse from Zenit St Petersburg supporters today, and insisted that the threat would have no bearing on his team selection.
Liverpool’s appearance in St Petersburg will be Zenit’s first competitive game since their largest supporters’ group, Landscrona, issued a manifesto that included calls for the club not to sign black players or “any representatives of sexual minorities”. Rodgers said he would raise the potential problems with his squad before the Europa League round of 32 first leg. Liverpool insist their reaction to any abuse, however, including whether to walk off, should be led by European football’s governing body, an organisation not known for taking a tough stance on racism.
The Liverpool manager said: “I’ve never known a set of fans refuse to support black players but I have not spoken directly to the players at the moment; we still have a few meetings and I will make reference to it as we have some players who it could affect. Anything that goes on outside of that will be taken care of.
“We hope the officials and Uefa can take care of all that side. There’s no doubt if there is anything untoward we will do everything as a football club to stand behind those players it may affect. It’s a social issue, not a football one. We as a football club and in Britain have done a lot of work to prevent racism. No matter your race, colour or creed, everyone is equal.”
As for the football, Daniel Agger has been left behind for fitness reasons but Steven Gerrard has been included for a European away tie for the first time this season. Zenit have won the Russian title for the past two seasons, though they have not played a competitive fixture since early December.