30 July 2012

McCammon: Gillingham GUILTY of racism

Mark McCammon has won a landmark racism case against former club Gillingham.

Gillingham have effectively been found guilty of racism after a tribunal made the landmark ruling that Mark McCammon's dismissal by the League Two club was unfair.

The 33-year-old striker took the Gills to court after he was sacked, allegedly for misconduct, last year. McCammon claimed that he and other black players at Priestfield were treated more harshly than white players at the club.

An employment tribunal in Kent agreed with McCammon, leaving the reputation of Gillingham Football Club severely damaged. It is incredible to think that, at a time where about a quarter of English-based footballers are black or mixed-race, racism still exists in British professional football.

Former Swindon Town and Millwall striker McCammon, who has also played internationally for his native Barbados, told the tribunal that Gillingham put him 'through hell' during his three-year stay at the club. One person who bore the brunt of his allegations was the Gills' controversial chairman Paul Scally.

He said that, while he was being treated for an injury, he was ordered to stay behind at the club for four hours longer than other players - on the strict instructions of Scally.

In autumn 2010, Gillingham refused to pay private medical bills - and incredibly offered him an operation on the NHS! Compare that treatment to a white player, who was flown to Dubai for the best possible treatment by a leading physio, and the club footed the bill.

That November came the catalyst for McCammon's dismissal. On the 30th of that month, Kent had been absolutely battered by torrential snow, but Mark - along with two other black players - was ordered to drive to the ground or risk being docked wages. Guess what? None of the white players were obliged to do so!

McCammon confronted the then-manager, Andy Hessenthaler, who reacted angrily to the forward's allegations that he had been "racially intolerant". The player added that he feared Hessenthaler would lash out at him. In defence, Scally accused McCammon of being physically and verbally agressive towards Hessenthaler.

Mark McCammon left Gillingham at the end of the 2010/2011 season. After departing Priestfield, he had brief spells at Braintree Town and Lincoln City.

The Gills were disappointed with the ruling that McCammon's sacking was unfair racial discrimination. Scally said that McCammon's claims were malicious and without foundation, and added that the club had not been accused of racism for 18 years.

Lord Herman Ouseley, who is the chairman of anti-racism group Kick It Out, said of the ruling: "It will inevitably have implications for all clubs about the way they treat people and do not discriminate against them on the grounds of race, colour, ethnicity or anything else."

McCammon may well be awarded thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of pounds in compensation. A large fee would seriously dent Gillingham's financial situation, but that wouldn't suffer as much damage as their reputation. They will surely now be charged by the FA or Football League, who might even have reason to take action against Scally and/or Hessenthaler.

McCammon's decision to stand up against the club that mistreated him will give encouragement to other players who have suffered similar treatment. He is the first high-profile professional footballer in England to win a case like this, but he won't be the last.

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