The chairman of an anti-racism group has accused England's Football Association and the top-flight Premier League of lacking morality and leadership over their handling of recent racism cases.
Herman Ouseley, who heads the Kick It Out organisation, also rebuked Chelsea and Liverpool over the racism incidents involving their players John Terry and Luis Suarez, saying they failed to take a stand against unacceptable behaviour.
"There is very little morality in football among the top clubs," Ouseley, a lawmaker in Britain's upper chamber of parliament, said in an interview with The Guardian newspaper published on Tuesday.
"Leadership is so important; you have to send a powerful message that racism is completely unacceptable. But there is a moral vacuum.
"The big clubs look after their players as assets. There was no bold attitude from them, to say that they would not put up with it."
Terry served a four-game ban earlier this season after being found guilty of racially abusing Queens Park Rangers' Anton Ferdinand by the FA, while Suarez was hit with an eight-match suspension for a similar offence last season.
Despite the punishments dealt out to the two players, Ouseley said the football authorities should have been more outspoken in their criticism.
"The condemnations have been mealy-mouthed," the former head of the Commission for Racial Equality said.
"We want all players and fans to feel confident about reporting abuse. But the FA did not say anything about the lies and distortions which came out in John Terry's and Ashley Cole's evidence. Instead the players are protected.
"The Premier League could have set the tone; they and the FA do a good job in community work. But on this, I have not heard anything from the Premier League."
Ouseley also chastised the former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish and ex-Chelsea coach Andre Villas-Boas for giving too much support to Suarez and Terry during their respective cases.
"We were observing the process but the managers were speaking out and sticking up for Luis Suarez and John Terry," Ouseley added.
"The FA should have asserted themselves, said they would not put up with people disrespecting the process, but the FA were very slack and weak."
Responding to Ouseley's criticism, Heather Rabbatts, the FA's independent director, admitted the game's authorities must show greater determination to completely stamp out the evil of racism.
Rabbatts, appointed as an independent board member earlier this year and a potential candidate to be the next FA chairman, believes Ouseley has raised important issues that must not be swept under the carpet.
"The issues that Herman Ouseley is raising are hugely important issues for the whole game and it has to respond to these challenges," she said.
"There are a number of members from different parts of the game being consulted and we all have to rise to the current challenge.
"Despite the huge progress that has been made in tackling discrimination there is a need for renewed energy."
English football has been hit by a spate of incidents of racial abuse this year, with a succession of players allegedly targeted by fans both at grounds and on Twitter.
Chelsea also had a claim of racial abuse against referee Mark Clattenburg dismissed by the FA over a lack of evidence.
Meanwhile, the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) has announced plans for players and coaches to receive "cultural lessons" to improve awareness of the rules regarding discrimination.
"Up until now we have had cultural awareness courses for our apprentices and the plan now is to extend these to senior players and coaches, including those coming from overseas," said PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor.
"We want to make sure there there is no misunderstanding with regards to the rules and regulations on discrimination."