Claiming that footballers of different ethnic backgrounds are being separated from white colleagues at Crawley Town FC amounts to modern-day “apartheid”, according to an anti-racism campaigner.
The scandal that has engulfed the League Two club centers on manager John Yems, who has been suspended while three separate investigations are pursued.
Several players have accused him of repeatedly using offensive racist language and even forcing non-white players to use different dressing rooms.
Sky News spoke to a former player who has now left the club after being managed by Yems.
The footballer wished to remain anonymous but said he believed the claims about racist language and player segregation were “all true” in his view.
He added, “It affected my friends, who I am still closely connected with to this day.”
Anti-racism activist Shaun Campbell told Sky News he was appalled by the allegations.
“If that’s true, then this would be apartheid in its latest form and in Britain,” he said.
“This belongs in the past, not in the present and not in the future, it is an ultra low point in the fight against racism and discrimination.”
Apartheid was a system of institutionalized racial segregation that existed in South Africa and South West Africa until the early 1990s.
Sky Sports News understands seven footballers have lodged complaints with the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), which is investigating and assisting those involved – the Football Association (FA) and the club’s new American owners have also launched investigations.
Last night Crawley Town hosted a fan forum at their premises where fans were told they could not ask questions about the matter due to the ongoing investigation.
After the meeting, season ticket holder Chris Cheshire told Sky News she was concerned by what was being claimed. “It affects us all deeply … but we have to wait for facts and evidence,” she said.
“If they don’t turn out to be true, he’ll probably move on — if there’s any truth to it, he’ll have to go.”
The club was recently brought in by American investors who suspended Yems 11 days ago when they found out what was being claimed.
“We take the allegations very seriously”
The owners declined a request for an interview from Sky News but previously described the allegations as “serious and credible”.
Kick It Out executive Tony Burnett told Sky News: “You’re not talking about micro-aggressions; they sound like very serious allegations. We are very pleased that the authorities are taking the matter seriously and are doing what they need to do to get to the bottom of the matter.
“As we come to a conclusion, we expect transparency and that they hold the game accountable for doing the right thing with the next steps.”
A spokesman for the FA said: “We are aware of the allegations made against Crawley Town manager John Yems.
“We take the allegations very seriously and are currently conducting an investigation. Until this is completed, we cannot comment further.”
Mr Yems has not yet responded to Sky News requests for comment.
The investigations are ongoing and have yet to come to any conclusions.
Crawley Town are currently 12th in the Second Division and Lewis Young, brother of former England star Ashley Young, took charge of the first-team for the final game of the season this weekend.