John Yems: Ex-Crawley Town boss used highly offensive racist language to players, says FA report

Former Crawley Town manager John Yems
John Yems was appointed Crawley Town manager in December 2019

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Ex-Crawley Town manager John Yems used “offensive, racist and Islamophobic” language and joked that a Muslim player was a terrorist, according to a Football Association report.

Yems, 63, was banned from football for 18 months after admitting one charge and being found guilty of 11 others of racist abuse towards his players.

Four further charges were found to be unproven by an FA tribunal.

A further charge against Yems relating to racial segregation was dropped.

In publishing the written reasons for his ban, the FA disciplinary commission “accepted that Mr Yems is not a conscious racist”.

“Nevertheless, Mr Yems’ ‘banter’ undoubtedly came across to the victims and others as offensive, racist and Islamophobic,” the report said.

“Mr Yems simply paid no regard to the distress which his misplaced jocularity was causing.”

The FA said the case was “extremely serious” and “involved racist bullying over a significant period of time”.

It stressed that Yems’ “lack of remorse or insight” and the “repetitive nature of the misconduct” were aggravating factors.

However, the tribunal was told that Yems accepted his ban and was remorseful, adding that “his attempts at jocularity had been thoughtless and misguided but not malevolent”.

The evidence against Yems

Yems, who had been in charge at Crawley since December 2019, was suspended by the club on 23 April 2022 and parted company with the League Two side 13 days later, two days after the FA announced it was investigating the allegations against him.

He faced 16 charges at the tribunal, which was held in November, one of which he admitted but “downplayed its gravity”.

He contested the other 15, four of which were found to be unproven.

A 17th charge of segregating the players at the club along racial lines was withdrawn by the FA before the hearing. The report said two of the players “who had complained of racist language by Mr Yems, acknowledged that there had not been deliberate segregation along racial lines” at Crawley.

The evidence the tribunal heard included:

  • How Yems used a racial slur to describe some of the club’s black players and deliberately mis-pronounced a name to make it sound like an racially offensive term.
  • Yems used a racial stereotype to two black players who were playing darts. He then repeated a racial slur and “made gestures as if using a blowpipe”.
  • How one player feigned illness in order to avoid Yems’ ‘banter’ about eating curry.
  • A Muslim player became the subject of jokes about “being a terrorist”. He was asked if he slept with a gun and if he carried a bomb in his bag.
  • Yems used a racial stereotype to a black player of African origin by asking if he liked jerk chicken – a dish associated with the Caribbean.
  • Another player returning from international duty was told he should not train with the squad. Yems commented on his colour “then put his hand over his mouth saying he should not say that”.

Yems’ mitigation

The report stated how, in his defence, Yems “categorically denied that he was in any way racist” and that he “might be viewed as an ‘old school’ football manager who might be ‘robust and industrial’ in his use of language; indeed, he fairly acknowledged that he had been less concerned about speaking in a politically correct manner than he should have been”.

In the report’s summing up it stated that Yems “is a man of jocular disposition. His aim is to encourage bonding among players by cracking jokes and joining in fun with them”.

But it went on to say that “he has 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”.

The report went on to state: “There was a considerable weight of evidence to the effect that Mr Yems was in the habit of, in his perception, cracking jokes which were perceived as racist by those who were the butt of the jokes.

“Probably, Mr Yems gave no thought at all to the effect of his language on those at whom the ‘jokes’ were aimed.

“Nor did he give any thought at all to the likely reaction of others to the language he used.”