POLICE are investigating a race hate campaign against Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi after "sickening" messages were posted on Facebook.

The comments have since been deleted, but the club's officials reported the matter and officers are now making inquiries to find who was responsible.

A club spokeswoman said: "We have liaised with Northumbria Police and the matter is now in their hands.

"We have a zero tolerance approach to racism and will always seek to take the strongest possible action."

The abuse directed at Ameobi, 30, comes just weeks after Joshua Cryer, a law student at Newcastle University, was charged with a public order offence, after allegedly sending racist messages on Twitter to former footballer Stan Collymore.

Ged Grebby, Chief Executive at anti-racism campaign Show Racism The Red Card, said those behind the attack must be found and prosecuted.

"The use of Facebook and social media to bully and racially abuse people is not something that's confined to people like Shola and Stan Collymore," he said.

"It's something that's going on day in, day out."

It is the third time in as many months that the club have been the subject of online attacks.

In November last year, Ameobi's younger brother Sammi, who also plays for Newcastle United, was sent vile abuse on Twitter.

And another man was charged this year after tweeting a racist comment, which focused on the number of black players in United's squad.

Mr Grebby added: "The club are very proactive in promoting their zero-tolerance approach to racism.

"Racism is still a huge problem in society, it's not something we believe has gone away and Twitter and other social media is a new form of it.

"Shola has been fantastic in terms of our campaign ever since he started at the club.

He's been a great ambassador for Show Racism The Red Card and introduced Jermain Jenas and Olivier Bernard to us.

"He's been a very important part of our work and I'm sure he'll be wanting to see prosecutions."

Mr Grebby said it was difficult to understand how internet users thought they could get away with racist attacks.

He said: "As soon as you put something into print in any form then you become liable for prosecution and we would expect the authorities to act strongly."

A Facebook spokesperson said today: "It is against Facebook's terms and conditions for users to post hateful content.

"Facebook is highly self-regulating, and we encourage people to report content that they find offensive or questionable via the reporting links on every page of our site."

A police spokesman said: "We have received a report of racist comments made on Facebook on which we're working closely with Newcastle United.

"Northumbria Police take all reports of racist abuse very seriously and inquiries are being conducted."