Racism: Island player feels 'let down' by authorities
AN Island footballer has spoken out against the game’s governing bodies this week, saying he feels let down by their approach to investigating racism.
St Ouen midfielder Francis Lekimamati (22) was subjected to alleged racial abuse during a Jersey Football Combination Premiership fixture earlier this season, but as the match official in charge did not hear the incident no formal punishment via racism disciplinary guidelines could be handed down. Players on both sides are said to have been aware of the comment, but the referee was only able to report the case to the Jersey Football Association through hearsay.
The accused player was subsequently banned for four games by the JFA, but only on the grounds of abusive language as he is believed to have admitted using alternative offensive wording. Racism could not be proved.
St Ouen did give evidence during the disciplinary process, but Lekimamati – named man of the match in the 2015 U18 Muratti and later selected for Jersey at senior level – says he was not contacted personally for his version of events and feels justice has not been served.
‘After my experience in December I believe that not enough is being done by the Jersey FA or the England FA at grass roots level,’ said finance worker Lekimamati, currently away travelling but due back in Jersey in September 2019.
‘The outcome of this particular case came down to my word against his, and I know that the player involved had two hearings with the JFA. I was not contacted once to tell them my side of the story.
‘If this is to happen again to anyone the JFA should contact the victim as well as the accused, so that both players involved can give a statement on what happened.
‘The referee of our game did not speak to me after the match or ask me for a statement about the incident. I also made it clear to the referee during the game that one other player on the opposing team heard the remark being made, but nothing was done about it. I feel that the claim was brushed under the carpet and not taken seriously.
‘In my opinion the disciplinary process protects the accused party more than the victim.’
He added: ‘I feel let down because I have represented Jersey at every level and age group and I have not been contacted once by any member of the JFA.
‘I feel that the JFA will always put their reputation before a player’s wellbeing. If they charge a player with racial abuse and the player then goes on to represent Jersey at senior level that could potentially make people and sponsors question their integrity and the JFA will avoid this at all costs.
‘If it was not for my club, St Ouen, I doubt anything would have been done.’
However, Lekimamati says his recent experiences will not keep him away from the field when he arrives back in Jersey.
‘I will definitely continue to play club football when I return,’ he said.
‘It hasn’t dampened my motivation to play. I wouldn’t let one ignorant comment stop me from playing football. I just hope in the future any form of discrimination is dealt with better by the people in charge.’
The issue of racism in football has hit international news again in recent weeks, following alleged abuse of black England players during their European Championships qualifier in Montenegro.
The Premier League last week launched its “No Room for Racism” campaign – backed by the game’s leading players – and one of England’s top officials has since highlighted a need for improvements.
Speaking at Uefa’s Equal Game conference at Wembley Stadium this week, England FA chairman Greg Clarke discussed his desire to reassess Uefa’s racism protocols, including those which may restrict justice following on-field abuse.
Clarke said: ‘I completely understand that when two people are involved in an exchange it is often the word of one person against another.
‘We have to review every case, checking all the evidence … taking accounts from players and individuals – whether or not it’s been in the official match report.
‘We should reduce the threshold for player-to-player discrimination to ensure all cases are brought forward.
‘Like every policy, it needs to evolve. We need to see if it works and we need to see if it can be improved. I think it can.’
Lekimamati said: ‘I’m glad more campaigns are being formed such as “No Room for Racism”, and also “Kick It Out” has been around for a while now. These are a massive positive as it’s a step in the right direction towards getting racism out the game all together.’
In response to Lekimamati’s concerns, a statement from the JFA read: ‘The Jersey Football Association takes all such cases extremely seriously and we strongly refute that we would put our own reputation before player welfare. It is, quite simply, not true.
‘Both the club and the alleged offender in this case were asked to provide evidence. The incident has been reviewed extensively by our disciplinary commission and the FA in England has also requested details. The club has been informed of this.’
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