British baller cries racismMark McCammon (Internet Image)
By Tony Best | Thu, July 12, 2012 - 12:03 AM
A FEW MONTHS after Prime Minister David Cameron urged British football authorities to end racism in the sport, a tribunal in Kent has begun hearing evidence in an explosive case involving a Barbados national player who accused his former English club of racial discrimination.
And while Paul Scally, chairman of the Gillingham professional football team, has dismissed as being of “no substance” Mark McCammon’s charges that he was discriminated against by the club because of his colour, the hotly debated issue of racism in football is not expected to go away any time soon.
McCammon was born in England but represented Barbados five times in international matches, scoring four goals. He played for Gillingham for three seasons and in his complaint he alleged that black players were treated differently from whites. He is the first footballer to take an English club to court alleging racism.
The tribunal’s hearing began a few months after Cameron convened a summit at 10 Downing Street with the representatives of the Premier League, the Football Association, the League Managers’ Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association along with individual England players to discuss a spate of incidents of racist behaviour on and off the field by players and fans.
The government has demanded that the Football Association come up with a firm action plan to address the issue of racial discrimination in its ranks.
In his complaint, the 33-year-old Barbados player, who appeared in more than 50 League games for Gillingham, cited several instances of alleged bias. For instance, he charged that he and other black players were ordered to go to the ground on a snowy day when driving was “treacherous” but white players were told they should not appear.
The forward, who also played for Charlton Athletic, Swindon Town, Millwall and Brighton and Hove Albion, alleged that Gillingham declined to pay for expert medical surgery to treat a football injury, instead offering him care by the National Health System. He said that move was “completely out of character” for a League club.
Sent for treatment
However, an injured white player was flown at the club’s expense to Dubai for treatment by an eminent physiotherapist.
McCammon also claimed the club dismissed him after he had complained about racism and it then refused to pay him. He is seeking substantial financial damages for pain and suffering.
He said that after he was let go, Gillingham and its chairman were “effectively campaigning covertly against me” in an effort to scuttle his career. In the end almost a dozen clubs showed interest but he was unable to negotiate a contract.
“It soon became known that the chairman had been interfering,” McCammon charged.
The Barbadian signed with Gillingham in 2008, earning £2 500 (BDS$7 744) a week and became the club’s highest-paid player.
After a brilliant start, things deteriorated and by the third season he was no longer in the team’s plans. Matters came to a head on November 30, 2010 when he was ordered to the ground with two black players despite the awful snowy condition. When he arrived he went straight to the office of the manager, Andy Hesssenthaler, and confronted him with a charge of being “racially intolerant”.
In his appearance, the Gillingham chairman said the claims were without foundation. “I can honestly say we have never in 18 years had an allegation of racism to consider but we take racism seriously as a football club,” he commented.
“I didn’t take [McCammon’s claims] serious as I considered it to be a vindictive claim of racial discrimination. I considered it to be a malicious, vindictive, wild and aggressive comment, not worthy of consideration as racism.”
But McCammon isn’t alone in raising the spectre of racism in football.
Several black players, including Stan Collymore who played for England, and 30-year-old Jonathan Nurse, a striker for Dagenham and Redbridge who also represented Barbados, said that racism was a fact of life in English football.
Collymore, who has retired from the game, recalled he was once told by a player “at least my mother never slept with a coon” while Nurse said that he experienced racism from fans and players.
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