Almost one in five do not want black players representing Italy.

A new survey among fans of Italian football has found an alarmingly high level of support for the racist comments made by former national team coach Arrigo Sacchi.

Last month Sacchi caused an outcry in his homeland when he claimed that there were too many black footballers representing Italy.

In the wake of the controversy, Football Addicts teamed up with anti-discrimination organisation Fare and polled 851,000 Italian fans within their Forza Football app, to gauge their opinions on the subject of black players representing Italy.

The results showed that while 82% would be happy for a black footballer to play for Italy, 18% said that they would be unhappy.

The former Milan coach insisted he was not racist, but it was hard to escape that conclusion when examining the comments he made after attending the Viareggio youth tournament last month.

Sacchi said: “In our youth sector there are too many blacks.”

“I’m not racist and my history as a coach shows that, but watching at the Viareggio Cup makes me think there are too many coloured players,” he said.

“Business interests now come first. Italy has no dignity, it has no pride: you shouldn’t have squads including 15 foreigners.”

He later clarified: “I just wanted to underline the fact that we’re losing our national pride and identity.”