LONDON (AP) — English soccer’s governing body criticized Wednesday the findings of an independent panel which concluded that a lower-league coach banned for 15 months for using discriminatory language toward his players was “not a conscious racist.”
John Yems, the former manager of fourth-tier Crawley Town, admitted to one charge and was found guilty of 11 others relating to comments made from 2019-22 that referenced ethnic origin, color, race, nationality, religion, belief or gender.
Among the evidence heard by the independent disciplinary commission set up by the English Football Association, Yems was found to have used Islamophobic language, as well as racial slurs and stereotypes toward black players.
The panel said that what it described as the 63-year-old Yems’ “banter” had “undoubtedly came across to the victims and others as offensive, racist and Islamophobic.” Yems, the panel said, had “no appreciation that much of the sort of language which might have been in common usage some 40 or 50 years ago has no place in modern society.”
Yet, it sided with Yems’ lawyers, who argued he was not a racist and neither did he “ever intend to make racist remarks.”
In response, the FA — which brought a total of 16 charges of discrimination against Yems — said it “fundamentally disagreed” with the panel’s findings and reiterated its push for a longer ban.
A number of Crawley players took grievances about Yems to the Professional Footballers’ Association, sparking an investigation and leading to Yem’s suspension for 12 days before he was fired in May.
Anti-discrimination campaigner Kick It Out said Yems’ language had been “simply shocking.”
“The behavior outlined in the report must be called out for exactly what it is, racism and Islamophobia,” a Kick It Out statement read.
“To speak plainly, a 15-month ban given the severity of the 11 proven charges is a slap in the face to the victims of the discriminatory abuse detailed in this report and anyone who has been subject to racism or Islamophobia.”
Kick It Out said the findings set a dangerous precedent “by allowing perpetrators to hide behind a ‘banter’ defense when intentionally using harmful and discriminatory language.”
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