A manager in England’s lower soccer leagues had a ban for using discriminatory language toward his players increased to three years Wednesday following an appeal by the Football Association.
John Yems, the former manager of fourth-tier club 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 given to a disciplinary panel set up by the FA, the 63-year-old Yems was found to have used anti-Muslim language, as well as racial slurs and stereotypes toward Black players.
He was handed a 15-month ban in January but the FA wanted a longer sanction, saying it “fundamentally disagreed” with the findings of a panel which sided with Yems’ lawyers, who argued he was “not a conscious racist” and did not “ever intend to make racist remarks.”
An appeal board more than doubled the length of the sanction, which means he is banned from all soccer-related activity until Jan. 5, 2026.
The FA said it was the longest ban ever issued in English soccer for discrimination, adding that it was justified because there were “numerous examples of inherent and obvious racist language.”
“This is a deeply distressing case for the victims involved, and we hope that the outcome of this appeal will help to bring some closure,” the governing body said. “We also hope that this will encourage anyone who has experienced or witnessed discrimination in the game to report it.
“Everyone should be able to play the game in an environment that is free from discrimination and know that they can trust those who occupy positions of responsibility and power to lead a safe and positive culture, free from harm.”
Former Chelsea player Paul Canoville, who was racially abused during his career, described the ban as “still insufficient” in a post on Twitter.
Canoville addresses racism and discrimination through his own foundation, which acts as a youth education and outreach charity.
“Whilst this ban may be the longest issued in English football for discrimination, it still doesn’t come close to being equitable to the abhorrence of the offenses," the foundation's CEO, Raphael Frascogna, said in a statement. "Racial stereotypes, slurs and tropes are often the more visible elements of far worse behaviour and beliefs.
“People come and go but these detestable ideas will never die so long as they have a voice."
In the original disciplinary hearing, the panel said that what it described as 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.”
A number of Crawley players complained 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 described Yems’ language as “simply shocking.”