Everton ban The Sun after Kelvin MacKenzie's Ross Barkley article

Everton have banned The Sun journalists from their stadium and training ground in the wake of a column about player Ross Barkley.

It comes after a controversial column by Kelvin MacKenzie in the newspaper, in which he compared the midfielder to a gorilla.

A statement on the club's website said they had told The Sun on Friday that it was banned from their Goodison Park stadium, the USM Finch Farm training ground and all areas of the team's operation.

It added: "Whilst we will not dignify any journalist with a response to appalling and indefensible allegations, the newspaper has to know that any attack on this city, either against a much-respected community or individual, is not acceptable."

The newspaper has suspended Mr MacKenzie, saying he expressed "wrong" and "unfunny" views about the people of Liverpool.

Police are also investigating claims the article by Mr Mackenzie amounts to a "racial hate crime".

Barkely - an England international - was punched twice in an "unprovoked" nightclub attack last weekend.

Writing about the incident, Mr MacKenzie likened the 23-year-old, who has a grandfather born in Nigeria, to "a gorilla in the zoo".

The article, entitled "Here's why they go ape at Ross", was printed alongside a close-up photograph of Barkley's eyes above the eyes of a gorilla.

Mr MacKenzie wrote that "thick and single" Barkley was "an attractive catch in the Liverpool area where the only men with similar pay packets are drug dealers".

He added: "There is something about the lack of reflection in his eyes which makes me certain not only are the lights not on, there is definitely nobody at home".

Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson said the remarks, which came a day before the 28th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, were "despicable" and a "racist slur" on Barkley.

Mr MacKenzie was the editor of The Sun at the time of the 1989 tragedy and has since apologised for a front page story in which the tabloid claimed Liverpool supporters attacked police officers tending to injured fans and stole from dead bodies.

Mr Anderson said he had reported Mr MacKenzie and The Sun to the police and Independent Press Standards Organisation.

In a statement, News UK said: "The Sun apologises for the offence caused.

"The paper was unaware of Ross Barkley's heritage and there was never any slur intended. Mr MacKenzie is currently on holiday and the matter will be fully investigated on his return."

Mr Mackenzie said he did not know of Barkley's family background and that it was "beyond parody" to describe his article as "racist".

Merseyside Police told Sky News it had received a complaint "alleging that comments written about a third party constitute a racial hate crime".

It said: "Enquiries are now being carried out to establish the full circumstances of the incident."