Haringey v Yeovil shows non-league has a racism problem

FOR YEARS, people have been selling non-league football as a civilised world, “real football for real people”, supported by the theory that this level of the game is one big happy family, a community motivated by the enjoyment of football in a malice-free environment.

Just days after England’s players were subjected to racist comments and chanting in Bulgaria, Haringey Borough’s football team walked-off the pitch after racism allegedly reared its ugly head once more. Two men in the Yeovil area were arrested the following day on suspicion of racism.

Of course, racism at any game damages reputations and hurts people, but for non-league it is a blow in a different way. It demonstrates that not even a match played in front of a homely, small crowd, where people may have parted with £ 10 to watch a FA Cup tie, is immune from anti-social and criminal behaviour.

Yeovil have only just returned to the non-league fold, but there can be no excuse for what happened. They have been circulating a world where smart-arse jibes can get lost in bigger crowds, but in the more communal atmosphere of non-league, every comment can be heard and attributed. It should have been relatively easy to pinpoint the culprits. In non-league grounds, stewards and club officials are invariably (and understandably) reluctant to confront bad language from the terraces. Surely, it should not be left to a referee to deal with it?

CNN International’s Ben Morse asked if Haringey’s walk-off represented a watershed moment for the game in England. He spoke to journalist Darren Lewis, who said: “We’ve got to a stage where black players can no longer leave it to the authorities.”

One Yeovil fan, speaking in a Somerset newspaper, believed the incident was not as clear-cut as reported: “Suggestion in the away end is that this kicked off after the penalty was awarded when the goalkeeper sprayed fans with a water bottle. Fans stood next to the flashpoint are adamant there was no racist abuse.”

However, Cameroonian goalkeeper Douglas Pajetat said he was abused, spat at and had bottles thrown at him by Yeovil fans. Defender Coby Rowe had insults thrown at him all through the game. “The referee couldn’t guarantee the safety of the players,” said Haringey manager Tom Loizou.

The Kick it Out charity, which seems closely associated with Haringey Borough and is headquartered close by, noted that in 2018-19 there were over 400 reports of racism across professional and grassroots football.

It’s not the first time that Haringey Borough have been involved in a controversial incident. At a FA Cup tie two years ago, they claimed opposition fans racially abused the wife of one of the Heybridge party.

Club chairman Aki Achillea told the Enfield Independent: “What worries me is that we are potentially going to be targeted in the future because we not going to escape those who say we walked off because we were losing.”

Ironically, at De Montfort University in Leicester two weeks ago, John Barnes highlighted the “walk-off” protest as something that could be very contentious if the victimised team was losing when they left the field.

This sorry tale is a reminder that English football has to get its own house in order. Greg Clarke, Chairman of the FA, told the Times: “We shouldn’t take the moral high ground. We should join a movement to drive racism out of our game and have zero tolerance for it.”

Apparently, the game is to be replayed. It will be interesting to see how the case proceeds and also if the non-league community comes out in force to support Haringey.



Photo: PA

The Non-League 100: Yeovil Town 1948-49 – Stock’s giant-killers

yeovilFOR YEARS, Yeovil Town were considered to be one of the top clubs outside of the Football League. With their well-known stadium, Huish – complete with famous slope, and a promising catchment area, they were widely recognised as a League club-in-waiting.

This was largely due to the 1948-49 season, in which Yeovil beat Sunderland in the FA Cup. At the time, the north-easterners were among the top sides in the country and had spent more money than anyone on their team – not for nothing were Sunderland were known as the “Bank of England club”. They included the great Len Shackleton in their ranks.

Yeovil Town’s fortunes changed with the appointment of Alec Stock as player-manager in 1946. An average player, who made just 30 appearances for Queens Park Rangers before the second world war, Stock had the air of a gentleman and was left with a limp after serving in the forces. He was also a progressive coach who often claimed that he invented 4-4-2.

Yeovil finished fourth and eighth in the Southern League their first two post-war seasons. In 1948-49, Stock signed a cluster of new players, most of whom had Football League experience.

Right half Bob Keeton was signed from Torquay United. He was one of the few Yeovil players who didn’t live in the town. Keeton was a commercial traveller, which meant he was always on the road. Centre-half Les Blizzard joined from Bournemouth, but he would go on to make his name with Orient, making well over 200 appearances for the London club. Right winger Billy Hamilton, a Scot, had started out with Hearts before playing for Chester.

Centre forward Eric Bryant, a Brummie, was signed from Mansfield, while inside forward Ray Wright, a Yorkshireman, was secured from Exeter City. On the wing, Jack Hargreaves brought the experience of playing for Leeds United, Bristol City and Reading.

These players joined a squad that had plenty of savvy – Arthur Hickman, a right back, was an excellent dead-ball kicker, Ralph Davis, a glove maker, was a fast full back and was known as “the rabbit”. Nick Collins, Stock’s preferred left half, was a former Crystal Palace player.

Stan Hall was Yeovil’s regular goalkeeper, but he would miss the club’s finest hour. And that came in the FA Cup. Yeovil beat Lovell’s Athletic before reaching the first round against Romford. They won 4-0, the same scoreline when Yeovil disposed of Weymouth in front of 12,000 people. “It’s our year,” quipped Stock as he prepared for a third round tie with Bury.

Yeovil did it again, winning 3-1, setting up a real plum tie with Sunderland. They could have sold-out Huish three times over, but only 17,000 could see the game: “Somerset became the centre of the football world,” said the newsreel. Playing fast, open football, Yeovil took the lead through Stock after 28 minutes, but a mistake by stand-in keeper Dickie Dyke, who had stepped in when Hall was injured in the days leading up to the tie, allowed Jackie Robinson to equalise after 62 minutes. As fog swirled around the ground, extra time was needed (no replays) and Eric Bryant became the hero by scoring the winner for Yeovil.

Yeovil captured the imagination of the British public, but the FA Cup run ended in the next round, Manchester United beating them 8-0 at Maine Road. They had made their mark, however, and they’re still talking about Alec Stock and his enterprising team in Somerset!