Everton have demanded a full apology from El-Hadji Diouf after the Blackburn Rovers winger accused supporters of the Merseyside club of showering him with bananas during a Barclays Premier League match at Goodison Park on Sunday.
Diouf first made the allegation to a police officer as he left the pitch after the match, but a subsequent search of the playing surface and the area of the stadium where the Senegal international claimed the incident had taken place failed to find evidence to support his accusation.
Although Everton were outraged by the claims, which Bill Kenwright, the chairman, considers a groundless slur, they had initially refused to comment publicly, mainly because of a continuing investigation by Merseyside Police into allegations made by a teenage ballboy, who has accused Diouf of racially abusing him. But with the furore refusing to die down, Ian Ross, the Everton director of communications, asked Diouf to retract his comments.
“What angered us here at Everton, our supporters and our board of directors, are the allegations made by Mr Diouf in which he claimed he was ‘showered with bananas’ by Everton supporters in the section of the ground where the [ballboy] incident happened,” Ross said. “That is a wholly false allegation and I really would like him to retract that allegation and apologise to the supporters and staff of this football club.
“We find them [Diouf’s comments] offensive and a lot of our supporters have been in touch with the club to say that they find them offensive. I don’t think there’s a worse allegation in modern sport than racism and it works both ways.
“At the moment, and from my perspective, it looks like Mr Diouf is accusing Everton fans of racist behaviour. The police will tell you that is completely untrue and in such circumstances we would expect him to apologise and retract his allegations.”