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Friday, July 12, 2024

John Yems: Anger over calling manager 'not conscious racist'

John YemsGetty Images

A decision to describe comments by a football manager as “not conscious racism” beggars belief, a black ex-premier league footballer has said.

An independent panel found ex-Crawley Town boss John Yems guilty of racist abuse towards his players and banned him from football for 15 months.

But ex-footballer Clarke Carlisle, of anti-racism charity Kick It Out, said the panel’s findings were incredulous.

Yems said he was owed an apology for abuse he has since suffered.

The FA is looking at legally challenging the findings of its panel.

It said the case involving “racist bullying over a significant period” was “extremely serious” and it “fundamentally” disagreed that this was not a case of conscious racism.

The panel was made up of barrister Robert Englehart KC, former Sheffield United striker Tony Agana and Wolverhampton Wanderers club secretary Matt Wild, who were appointed by the FA, along with others, to sit on such panels.

In its report published on Tuesday, the panel found Yems used a racial slur to describe some of the club’s black players, deliberately mispronounced a name to make it sound like a racially offensive term and joked that a Muslim player was a terrorist.

It went on to state how, in his defence, Yems “categorically denied that he was in any way racist”.

And the panel concluded: “We regard this as an extremely serious case. We have accepted that Mr Yems is not a conscious racist.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Carlisle, who played for Watford, Queens Park Rangers and Burnley, accused the panel of incompetence.

“The amount of contradictions that are within the report itself totally undermine any confidence in the processes that are going on at the FA,” said Carlisle, who sits on the players’ board of anti-discrimination football group, Kick It Out.

“The fact they are at pains from the outset to state that they’re confident Mr Yems was not a racist – this was not the time or place to make that distinction. They were suppose to be making judgements on actions he made.

“But then to say in the next paragraph they reject categorically that any witness was lying and then they said there is a considerable weight of evidence that Mr Yems was in the habit of making these jokes over a three-year period.

“It just beggars belief that they can push that notion – the action of someone is not racist when it’s not their call to make.”

The ex-defender claimed the situation highlighted the need for an independent football regulator.

“Football regulates itself. It investigates itself… and it means that true justice is not sought in situations like this,” he added.

Clarke Carlisle

Getty Images

The panel found Yems guilty of 11 charges relating to racist abuse between 2019 and 2022. He admitted one charge.

The 63-year-old has now been banned from all-football related activity until June 2024. His lawyer told the panel his client accepted the ban and was remorseful.

His attempts at jocularity had been thoughtless and misguided but not malevolent, his lawyer said, in a submission to the panel.

On Thursday, in an interview with TalkSport, Yems said he was not found to be racist and had never used racist language with intent.

“The thing that I’ve done wrong has been highlighted to me and it’s shown me now that there are certain things that you can’t say and do,” he said.

“But to me, it’s the intent of what things were said. I haven’t purposely gone out there individually to say to somebody ‘XYZ’ purely on the colour of skin.”

Asked if he wanted to apologise to anyone, Yems said “If anybody needs an apology I think I do, the abuse and everything that I’ve been getting.”

The FA, which indicated it pushed for a two-year suspension, argued it “fundamentally disagreed” with the panel’s findings.

“Based on the evidence presented to the commission, we fundamentally disagree with the independent panel’s finding that this was not a case of conscious racism,” it said in a statement.

The allegations first came to light after a number of players from the League Two club took grievances to the Professional Footballers’ Association.

Yems had been in charge at Crawley since December 2019. He was suspended by the club on 23 April 2022 amid “serious and credible accusations” that he used discriminatory language and behaviour towards his players.

He parted company with the club 13 days later, two days after the FA announced it was investigating the allegations against him.

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