By Tony Attwood
At the end of last month it was found by an employment tribunal that Barbados international player Mark McCammon was unfairly sacked by Gillingham FC after being racially victimised.
The club then said it was “staggered” by the finding of the tribunal and suggested it would appeal.
The hearing was interesting in many ways – not least by the oddities revealed – as for example that Gillingham claim that it was agreed verbally that if Gillingham didn’t get promotion Mark McCammon’s salary would be cut by 15%. However due to a “clerical error” that clause was not only omitted from the contract – but no one noticed it was omitted from the contract, until the race dispute.
That seems bizarre to me – and it would be interesting to note if the club has sacked its administrators for gross negligence over the error. I have not heard that they have.
But back on the main story, as Mark McCammon’s solicitor said, “Mr McCammon raised a legitimate complaint of race discrimination, which the tribunal found that Mr Scally had discounted from the start as being without merit. Mr Scally did not bother to investigate the complaint and ultimately dismissed him because of it.
“The employment tribunal also make clear that the club’s witnesses not only colluded in the preparation of their witness statements leading to his dismissal but also colluded in the preparation of their evidence before the employment tribunal.”
These are incredibly powerful and important findings – and ones that should bring the club to the immediate attention of both the League and the FA. Collusion by witnesses, failure to investigate an allegation of racism when raised… If any of this is true (and for the moment it is, because the tribunal found it to be so) then the FA and League should be acting.
Lord Herman Ouseley, chairman of Kick It Out, said: “This is a landmark ruling. It will inevitably have implications for all clubs about the way they treat people and do not discriminate against them on the grounds of race, colour, ethnicity or anything else.”
But Gillingham chairman Paul Scally has now said the the club will appeal the decision.
So we wait to see what happens, and note in doing so that many people say they will appeal, but actually don’t.
At this moment I don’t know if an appeal has actually been launched – if you know for sure please do let me know when the appeal was put in.
But let us ponder for a moment. Let us suppose that the appeal fails – a legitimate supposition since at this moment the club has been found guilty of racism. What is the League and the FA going to do about this? Do they just say, “oh well, the civil regulator has taken care of that one, nothing for us to do,” and let the club continue in the League?
Given the activities of the League and FA over John Terry, and other players, not to mention spectators who are involved in racist behaviour, it would be crazy – and a total slap in the face to Kick it Out – for the club to be allowed to continue playing in the League.
As matters stand Gillingham have been found guilty of a racist act against a player – if the FA and/or League are taking actions against players who are reportedly involved in racism, surely they must also take action against clubs who are so involved.
And yet I can’t find any statute within the rules of the League or the FA which allows them to do this. 10 points off if you go into administration, but what if you are found guilty of racist activity as an institution?
Obviously if Gillingham do appeal and are found not guilty, then the matter falls for the moment, but I do hope that the League and FA will meanwhile be looking at their rules to see what they do to clubs that break the rules.
For most of its existence the FA and League have been happy to take actions against players and on occasion even directors, as individuals, but not against clubs. When there has been match fixing in the English league (most famously when Manchester United and Liverpool colluded in fixing a match so that Man U would stay up and Chelsea go down) no action at all was taken against the clubs.
The move to deducting 10 points for administration is a step in the right direction in my view – but it needs to be followed up when clubs are found to be racist in their behaviour.
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