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John Yems: FA wins appeal to extend former Crawley Town manager's ban until 2026 over discriminatory comments

John Yems, 63, was initially banned from football for 17 months following multiple breaches of Rule E3.2; he was charged by the FA after alleged incidents of comments to Crawley players between 2019 and 2022; the independent regulatory commission said Yems was "not a conscious racist"

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Image: John Yems, who took charge of Crawley in December 2019, was suspended for 12 days prior to his dismissal last May

John Yems has been suspended from all football and football-related activity up to and including January 5, 2026 following a successful FA appeal.

The FA previously brought 16 breaches of FA Rule E3.2 against Yems over comments that "included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race and/or nationality and/or religion or belief and/or gender" to Crawley players between 2019 and 2022 while he was manager.

Yems admitted to one charge and an independent regulatory commission found him guilty of 11 of the remaining 15, issuing a 17-month ban.

However, the FA appealed this on the basis that the sanction was insufficient and the commission had reached a decision to which no reasonable body could have come to. The panel's verdict was that Yems was "not a conscious racist" which the FA "fundamentally disagreed with".

The appeal board upheld the FA's appeal and imposed a three-year ban, the longest ever issued to a participant in English football for discrimination.

An FA spokesperson said: "We welcome the verdict from the independent appeal board to suspend John Yems from all football-related activity until January 2026.

"This is the longest-ever ban issued to a participant in English football for discrimination, and follows our decision to appeal and challenge the verdict of the independent regulatory commission after the first hearing in January.

"We strongly disagreed with their original sanction, as well as some of the elements of their judgement, which we fundamentally believed were not appropriate for the severity of the offences committed by John Yems.

"We are pleased that the independent appeal board ruled that specific findings from the independent regulatory commission were unreasonable, as there were numerous examples of inherent and obvious racist language.

'Everyone should be able to play the game free from discrimination'

"This is a deeply distressing case for the victims involved, and we hope that the outcome of this appeal will help to bring some closure. We also hope that this will encourage anyone who has experienced or witnessed discrimination in the game to report it.

"Everyone should be able to play the game in an environment that is free from discrimination and know that they can trust those who occupy positions of responsibility and power to lead a safe and positive culture, free from harm.

"Where discrimination happens, we will always use our very best efforts to ensure the right sanctions are imposed and, where appropriate, education is available to shift mindsets and continually improve the culture of football."

The appeal board said in its written reasons that the original commission's finding that Yems was not a "conscious racist" was "untenable".

It said some of the words and expressions the original panel found Yems guilty of using were "inherently and obviously racist".

The board said: "If the (original) commission proceeded on the basis of (Yems') case that he intended the remarks to be 'jokes' or 'banter', and that this was in some way exculpatory or meant that he was not a 'conscious racist' then that was a wholly unreasonable assessment and an incorrect approach to adopt.

"Racism can take many forms and need not be deployed in a manner that is actively hostile or aggressive towards the victim.

"All of that evidence and those findings are inconsistent with the conclusion that the respondent (Yems) was not aware that his comments were, objectively, racist and wholly offensive. That conclusion was not one to which a reasonable body could have come."

'Remove excuses with proper training and education'

Jason Lee, senior equalities education executive at the Professional Footballers' Association said:

"Despite the ban given to John Yems following the original hearing, the subsequent written findings essentially excused his language and behaviour as 'unconscious racism'. Not only was this unnecessary,it was also dangerous.

"It sends a message that those in positions of authority can justify their behaviour if they claim not to understand its impact.

"That should never be accepted. It's the job of everyone in the game, but particularly those in positions of power, to take responsibility for making sure they are educated.

"It shouldn't continue to be the job of those who are victims of racism and discrimination to adapt to an environment where it is passed off as banter or joking behaviour.

"We now need to make sure those excuses are removed. That includes proper training and education for all of those in the game, including those who chair and sit on panels such as that involving John Yems and who are responsible for making judgments in such cases.

"The PFA has been working with the players involved throughout what has been an extremely challenging period, one made more difficult by the need for this appeal.

"While we hope that this outcome will encourage more players to come forward to report issues, it's right that this process is properly reviewed so that lessons can be learned."

'Strong sanctions are crucial'

Kick It Out welcomed the extension of Yems' ban, saying: "We would like to thank the Professional Footballers' Association and the FA for ensuring that justice prevails in the case and commend the immense courage of the victims throughout this extremely difficult process.

"Strong sanctions are crucial in sending out a message that racist, Islamophobic and discriminatory language will not be tolerated in football.

"We hope that the record-length ban issued to Yems today will be a landmark moment that enables more victims of discrimination to come forward and provides a powerful statement that abusing the power dynamic between coach and player will have severe consequences.

"We are here to support all victim of discriminatory abuse and we would encourage anybody who sadly experiences or witnesses abuse of any kind in the game to report it to us at Kick It Out."

Yems, who took charge of Crawley in December 2019, was suspended for 12 days prior to his dismissal last May.

The investigation into Yems began when a number of players from the Sky Bet League Two club took their grievances to the Professional Footballers' Association.

Yems was initially banned from football for 17 months for the use of discriminatory language after the panel decided his words were "offensive, racist and Islamophobic".

The panel consisted of black former footballer Tony Agana, experienced lawyer Robert Englehart KC and Wolves club secretary Matt Wild.

The FA was unhappy that the panel chose, in its judgement, to question whether Yems is a "racist", when the panel's job was in fact to assess whether racist language had been used.

Sky Sports News spoke to Yems after the original decision, and he remained adamant he is not racist and points to the words of the independent panel which stated he "is not a conscious racist".

Yems admitted that, at the age of 63, he is lacking education and used outdated language.

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