The Professional Footballers’ Association warned yesterday that football governing bodies must take stronger action on racism and homophobia or risk footballers going on strike.

Nick Cusack, a senior executive at the players’ union, said that persistent “obscene language and gestures with intimidation” may lead to players walking off the pitch.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Crown Prosecution Service at Charlton Athletic’s ground, The Valley, he said: “Players have always been subjected to criticism but the kind of no-holds-barred lambasting of players, and for that matter managers and officials, has now gone too far.

“The optimism and anticipation at the start often disappears, to be replaced by unrestrained swearing and cursing that not only dismays the players but is also a source of huge disquiet among the majority of decent fans.

“As a player you accept criticism and mild abuse as part and parcel of the game but the more rabid and vituperative it becomes the more you feel that you should not have to tolerate it, and the authorities should be more proactive in reducing excess in that regard.”

Mr Cusack, a former Leicester and Swansea City player, added that homophobia and Islamophobia are growing problems.

On financial penalties, he said: “The current financial punishments handed down to national football associations hardly send a strong message to players that the football authorities are acting proportionately.

.”Unless Fifa and Uefa get tough and deduct points or disqualify teams from competitions for this kind of behaviour, players will be forced to take matters into their own hands and refuse to play when abuse occurs.”

In February, the Gay Football Supporters Network said that David Beckham had been subjected to homophobic abuse at a match between Spain and England.

According to the organisation, the match in Seville was marred when the crowd started chanting “Beckham maricón” which means “Beckham faggot.”