If the allegations are true, it is alarming how far John Yems could progress in English football before colleagues stuck their heads above the parapet to publicly report him, writes Laura Lawrence.
Crawley Town have problems, and I’m not talking about the Wall Street Journal reporting that the NFT market is crashing. No, their problems are much deeper and far more sinister.
On the 23rd of April, the second division club put out a statement announcing that coach John Yems had been suspended. The statement was vague and non-committal about the charges. On 3rd May the full horror of the allegations was revealed, and on 6th May Yems was sacked by Crawley Town.
Yems stands charged of segregating the training ground facilities into a changing room for white players and a separate room for the black players. Seven players so far have reported to the PFA and FA, and according to reports in the Daily Mail the manager told the white players, ‘Don’t change in the black boys’ room’. He is also accused of using racial slurs and discriminatory language towards players, like referring to those from Asian backgrounds as ‘terrorists’, ‘suicide bombers’ and ‘curry munchers.’
The FA are now investigating whether Yems has breached the rules that prohibit discrimination against protected characteristics such as race.
Yems is a journeyman throughout the football league. He’s been involved in Fulham’s academy, was assistant manager at Exeter City, chief scout at Grays Athletic, and was on the coaching staff at Dulwich Hamlet, Millwall, Gillingham and Bournemouth. Crawley Town is his first time as a first team manager, but he’s held influential positions at a lot of football league clubs. These roles are specifically involved with young, malleable men, ones that will do anything to play football.
Attitudes like the ones Yems has allegedly displayed don’t appear overnight. These are deep-seated prejudices wrapped in a banter coating. If the allegations are true, then this man has been left unchecked and unchallenged for a long time and, worse still, elevated to a position of power.
One unnamed player told the Daily Mail that “no one challenged him on it as he’s the gaffer and we didn’t feel we could”.
Why does that feel like we’re stepping into #METOO territory? An industry where players are so desperate to ‘make it’ they’re unwilling to put their head above the parapet and taint their career progression to whistle blow on people with discriminatory behaviour. The ‘undermine me and you won’t play’ attitude is not a way to manage or coach. It will be interesting to see if the white players of the club are among the complainants, or whether they too turned a blind eye and ear in their whitewashed changing facilities.
John Yems has refused to answer any questions about the allegations and instead called the police on Sky News reporters who approached him on the street. With reports initially coming out of the club that it was ‘50/50’ support for him, we must hope that Yems’s sacking is proof the supportive 50% re-evaluated their own behaviour.
If the allegations are upheld, this is yet another ugly day for English football and its ongoing inability to stamp out racism.
Follow Laura on Twitter @YICETOR