Peter Beardsley suspended from football for 32 weeks over racist remarks

Former Newcastle player denies accusations made against him at the club

Peter Beardsley has been suspended from all football-related activity until April 29th  for breaches of English Football Association rules, the governing body has announced. Photograph:   Mike Egerton/PA Wire

Peter Beardsley has been suspended from all football-related activity until April 29th for breaches of English Football Association rules, the governing body has announced. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

 

The former England striker Peter Beardsley has been banned from football for 32 weeks after being found guilty of three charges of racially abusing black players while coach of the Newcastle United under-23 team.

An independent English Football Association panel found that Beardsley had called a player of black African origin a “monkey” during a game of head tennis, and had told black players “you should be used to that” on a team-building trip to the outdoor adventure park Go Ape.

The 58-year-old, who left Newcastle in March, was also found guilty of questioning the legitimacy of a black player’s age, which the panel said was “a negative stereotype that players of black African origin commit fraud as to their true age”.

Beardley’s comments were, the panel concluded, “obviously racist and wholly unacceptable” and it found him guilty of three aggravated breaches of FA Rule E3. He is banned from all football and football-related activity until April 29th 2020 and has been ordered to attend an FA education course.

The panel said it did not believe that Beardsley, who denied the allegations, was racist but concluded he had committed acts of racial discrimination. “We are satisfied that Mr Beardsley is not a racist in the sense of being ill-disposed to persons on grounds of their race or ethnicity,” it said. “It is also relevant that he has not had the benefit of training and education about offensive racist remarks and the importance of not making them.”

One person who said they had witnessed the “monkey” comment stated: “I don’t think Peter meant it as racist, but it came out looking bad as he is a black player.”

The commission condemned Beardsley’s assertion that three black players had made up allegations motivated by financial greed.

“Not only did Mr Beardsley allege that some of the players had put their heads together to tell serious and hugely damaging lies, but he advanced a florid story of greedy motives implicating the agent of two of them for which he must have known that he did not have a shred of evidence,” the commission said. “When he was pressed about this during his evidence . . . he did not withdraw them. We regret to say that this aspect of Mr Beardsley’s evidence does not reflect well on him.”

The panel concluded that a stiff punishment was necessary. “The continuing prevalence of racism in its many forms in football today is the reason why we consider that racist remarks such as those made by Mr Beardsley cannot be tolerated and must be punished by a substantial period of suspension,” they added. “A light penalty would send out entirely the wrong message.

“Even if he did not intend to do so, he plainly did cause offence. It is particularly important at a time when racism in football is prevalent that remarks of the kind made by Mr Beardsley are punished severely.”

In a statement issued by his solicitors, Beardley said he was “very surprised and disappointed by the decision”.

“It was almost impossible for Peter to clear his name because of the serious flaws and contamination of evidence that occurred in the disciplinary process before Newcastle United and by the unusual fact that the FA Rules put the burden of proof on him to prove his innocence in the proceedings,” the statement added. “Peter feels vindicated that the commission has expressly found that he is not a racist.

“Peter and his legal advisers have been inundated with support from all over the country, both from fellow professionals of the highest repute including John Barnes, Kevin Keegan, Les Ferdinand and Andrew Cole, as well as other football professionals including managers, coaches, players, and football fans, all of which provided unchallenged evidence to the commission as to Peter’s good character, the fact that he is not a racist and whatever was said, there was no intent to cause offence.”

The statement concluded by saying that the former Newcastle player “looks forward to returning to work in football, which has been his life, at the end of his suspension”. – Guardian

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