Ex-manager of English football club Crawley Town banned for 15 months for racist behavior towards players


Former Crawley Town FC manager John Yems has been banned from English football until June 2024 for his racist behaviour.

An independent commission banned Yems earlier this month after finding he had credibly committed at least a dozen counts of racist behavior towards players he coached. The investigation into Yems’ behavior began in May after he was suspended in late April following “serious and credible” allegations of racist behavior.

Shortly after another investigation by the English Players’ Association began when scores of Crawley Town players came forward with allegations against Yems, the fourth-tier side parted ways with him on 6 May 2022.

Yems was found guilty of the charges on January 6 and the Football Association of England published a detailed list of the charges against him this week. The document describes countless cases of racism against players of different origins and nationalities.

The Cases of Racism and Islamophobia

Yems had been the manager of Crawley Town since 2019 and the document said much of Yems’ documented racist behavior occurred after the end of the 2019/20 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yems have been accused of 16 counts of racist behavior. He admitted one of the allegations and denied the other 15. The panel found 11 of the 15 allegations it rejected to be credible.

The first documented case of Yems’ behavior comes from a Nigerian player. The player said Yems would ask him if he would eat jerk chicken, apparently assuming the player was of Caribbean descent. The player also recalled an incident “when he was playing darts with Player 2, another black player, in the canteen when Mr. Yems asked what they did when playing darts when people like you usually blow sharp objects through their mouths ‘ before making a reference to the Zulu warriors.

John Yems coached Crawley Town from 2019-22. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

The same player also said that Yems would mispronounce Arnold Schwarzenegger’s last name to make it sound like a racial slur. A second black player said Yems would ask him similar questions about jerk chicken.

Yems would also refer to a player of Asian descent as a “curry eater” and taunt them about eating curry. Another player described the half-Indian and half-Irish player who was mocked for his ethnicity, and “once the players were eating pizzas from a sponsor Domino’s Pizzas, Mr. Yems asked him if he was upset that there were no curry pizza.”

An Iraqi Muslim who played for Yems said Yems joked that he was a “terrorist”. According to the report, he said Yems would ask “if he slept with an AK47 and said he couldn’t have a GPS vest because you guys blow things up in vests.” The player said Yems did too would repeatedly ask if he was carrying a bomb in his pocket.

Why wasn’t Yems’ ban longer?

The length of Yems’ ban from coaching football was an immediate source of scrutiny due to the language used to justify the relatively short suspension. Even the FA said they disagreed with the length of the ban.

The independent panel said Yems did not receive a longer suspension because it was “confident that Mr Yems as a person is not a racist” and that he “never intended to make racist remarks”. It also describes him as a man who is “joking in nature” and unrelated to the current time, while probably “having given no thought at all to the effect of his language on those targeted by the ‘jokes'”.

“Mr. Yems is a man of wit,” the panel wrote. “His goal is to foster bonding between players by cracking jokes and having fun with them. He was constantly trying to make some laugh, regardless of the effect of his words on others. Second, Mr. Yems describes himself as “old school” and as someone who doesn’t care for the finer points of political correctness. It’s fair to say that he doesn’t recognize that much of the language, that might have been in use some 40 or 50 years ago has no place in modern society.”

The FA said on Wednesday they disagreed with the decision to suspend Yems until June and had requested a longer suspension for the manager. The anti-racism group Kick It Out has also spoken out strongly against the brevity of the ban.

“The behavior described in the report must be identified accurately for what it is; Racism and Islamophobia,” Kick It Out said in a statement. “To be clear, a 15-month ban given the seriousness of the 11 proven charges is a slap in the face to victims of the discriminatory abuse detailed in this report and to anyone else who has faced racism or Islamophobia.”

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