Professional Footballers Association chairman Clarke Carlisle has called for the handshake row surrounding John Terry and Anton Ferdinand to be put in perspective.
Terry was cleared in court in July of allegations that he racially abused the QPR defender in a match at Loftus Road last season, though he still faces a Football Association charge over the matter.
Ferdinand refused to shake hands with either the Chelsea skipper or Ashley Cole, who appeared as a character witness for his Blues and England team-mate, ahead of yesterday’s west London derby at Loftus Road.
Rangers captain Park Ji-sung, a former Manchester United team-mate of Ferdinand’s brother Rio, also opted not to shake his opposite number’s hand during the pre-match formalities.
The incident overshadowed a goalless draw and, along with Manchester United fans’ distasteful chanting about Liverpool in the wake of the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s report being released this week, dominates the agenda after another difficult week for football.
York defender Carlisle feels that in the face of the Hillsborough issue, Ferdinand and Terry’s feud is an unwanted sideshow.
He told BBC Radio Five Live’s Sportsweek programme: “After all that’s happened this week – talking about Hillsborough and a long campaign and justice that has finally come for those families, and the club and the city of Liverpool – it all seems quite trivial.”
QPR manager Mark Hughes stated, before and after yesterday’s game, his belief that the handshake ritual should be scrapped.
But Carlisle continued: “I’m actually an advocate of the pre-match handshake, I think it’s a statement of intent to play the game in a certain manner that’s befitting to a professional.
“It was brought in for the Respect campaign so it’s trying to tie in that relationship with the officials as well, because both teams have to shake their hands as well.
“I think it’s a good thing that’s in the game but when you do get a matter like this, a situation that is so personal between two people – or three people - you can’t force any human being to shake another person’s hand.
“It becomes one of those talking points that right now football can do without.
“When something has been so deep-rooted and has had such a vitriolic response from both sets of supporters, I’m not surprised there are residual feelings that bite into their professional lives.
“But I would hope that at the conclusion of the FA inquiry, that we can put this situation to bed from a media angle and an industry angle and that the message that can come forth is one of education, of how we move forward and ensure something like that doesn’t happen again.”
There are fears the situation could be repeated next week when Liverpool and United meet at Anfield, with Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra having been embroiled in a race row of their own last season.
Suarez served an eight-match ban after the FA found him guilty of racially abusing Evra, and the Uruguayan controversially refused to shake Evra’s hand when the sides met later in the season.
Clarke is hopeful the issue will not rear its head on this occasion and said: “We have tried our best as a union to get all four clubs together.
“With QPR and Chelsea it’s very difficult because it’s all still ongoing and doing something like that could prejudice any kind of investigation.
“With Manchester United and Liverpool, they as clubs have decided that they want to try and put it to bed and they want everybody else to help them to do that.”