Racism is rife in football, say Town duo

Michael Johnson
Michael Johnson

RACISM remains rife in football, say the men at the management helm of Hucknall Town, Michael Johnson and Des Lyttle.

Director of football and vice-chairman Johnson (pictured right) has lifted the lid on the problem in high-profile TV interviews with Sky Sports and the BBC.

This followed the outrage generated by the recent remarks of FIFA boss Sepp Blatter — and also the controversy surrounding racism accusations levelled at Premier League stars John Terry and Luis Suarez.

Now Yellows manager Lyttle has told the Dispatch: “I think the same as Jonno. I doubt that racism in football will ever be wiped out.”

Lyttle even revealed that he once asked to be taken off during a match after being subjected to racial abuse.

“It was while I was playing for Watford on a pre-season tour in Ireland in 1999,” said the 40-year-old former Nottingham Forest defender.

“I wanted manager Graham Taylor to fetch me off. I was later asked if I wanted to take it further but I was just so angry that both the referee and linesman heard it and yet did nothing about it.

“Things have got better since then but it is something you are always going to have to deal with.

“I got it at school and I was brought up with it. When I was playing, I had particular problems with a club up north.

“The FA and the authorities are doing their best to stamp it out but there will always be a minority in society who want to say or do something.”

Blatter’s incredible comments about shrugging off racism with a handshake prompted Johnson (38) to blow the whistle on a cancer within the game that marred his successful 20-year playing career at clubs such as Notts County, Birmingham City and Derby County.

“Some players are not speaking out because of fear,” he said.

“They dread to think that if they say something, will that be the end of their career. Will they be labelled a troublemaker and someone who’s got attitude?

“There have even been cover-ups and gagging orders placed on players, so that things don’t come out in the Press. Players are frightened by managers who warn: don’t say anything because you will open up a can of worms.

“I know some players who have been paid off by certain football clubs and signed an agreement to say that whatever’s happened doesn’t go any further, otherwise the club will sue

“But I feel so strongly about what’s happening that I have to speak out. I know there are players up and down the country who are still going through this experience.”

Several high-profile campaigns have been launched in a bid to stamp out racism in football. But Johnson believes no-one knows the true extent of the problem.

“There has been so much swept under the carpet,” he added. “But the problem is still there, simmering away, whether it’s with fans, players or people higher up in a football club.

“If we don’t come out and say something, the situation will continue to fester.”

In response to Johnson, the FA issued this statement: “The FA and all of English football are united behind a zero-tolerance approach to racism.

“We are committed to inclusivity, and all forms of discrimination should be reported.”