Football manager who called Muslim players ‘terrorists’ isn’t racist, says FA

John Yems. Pic: Crawley Town

The Football Association has concluded that a manager who called Muslim players “terrorists” is “not a conscious racist.”

An FA panel said former Crawley manager John Yems, 63, also told Muslim players “your people blow up stuff with vests.”

According to an FA report, between 2019 and 2022 he also:

  • Used a racial stereotype to a black player of African origin by asking if he liked jerk chicken.
  • Said that an Iraqi youth international at the club “would probably blow up the stadium.”
  • Repeatedly made comments about another player “carrying a bomb in his bag.”
  • Called one player a “curry muncher” and asked if the player was unhappy that they did not server “curry pizza.”
  • Made a remark to one player about “how dark his skin is'” on his return to Crawley after representing Grenada.

During a tribunal Mr Yems denied most of the accusations and categorically denied that he was in any way racist. He said he is open minded and welcoming to all from whatever background.

With regard to the players who had complained of racist language, Mr Yems attributed their evidence to disappointment at not being selected by him to play for the team.

He admitted to one charge and was found guilty of 11 others relating to comments that referenced either ethnic origin, colour, race, nationality, religion, belief or gender.

He was banned from football for 15 months for multiple breaches of the Football Association’s rule relating to discriminatory comments.

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The FA said in its findings: “We regard this as an extremely serious case. We have accepted that Mr Yems is not a conscious racist. If he were, an extremely lengthy, even permanent, suspension would be appropriate.

“Nevertheless, Mr Yems’ ‘banter’ undoubtedly came across to the victims and others as offensive, racist and Islamophobic. Mr Yems simply paid no regard to the distress which his misplaced jocularity was causing.”

Sky News reports that anti-racism organisation Kick It Out said it was “very hard to understand” how the panel had concluded that Yems was not a conscious racist.

“The discriminatory language outlined in the FA independent report is simply shocking,” read Kick It Out’s statement.

“Given the seriousness of the incidents detailed, it is very hard to understand how the FA independent panel have concluded that ‘Mr Yems is not a conscious racist’. We do not share that viewpoint.

“The behaviour outlined in the report must be called out for exactly what it is: racism and Islamophobia.

“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.

“Furthermore, to reduce his prolonged string of offensive, Islamophobic and racist remarks to simply being ‘misplaced jocularity’ shows a total lack of understanding about the damage that this language can cause or the power dynamics that exist in the game.

“This decision also sets a dangerous precedent by allowing perpetrators to hide behind a ‘banter’ defence when intentionally using harmful and discriminatory language, and we will be in touch with the FA to understand how the panel came to this conclusion.

“We applaud the courage of the victims of this case for coming forward and would encourage anyone involved in the game who sadly find themselves in similar situations to get in touch with us at Kick It Out.”

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