A black footballer was unfairly sacked by Gillingham FC after being racially victimised, an employment tribunal has ruled.
Mark McCammon, 33, a former Barbados international, took legal action against the League Two side after being dismissed for alleged misconduct last year.
The striker told a hearing in Ashford, Kent, that he and other black players at the club were treated differently from white players.
McCammon said he was ordered to come into the ground amid "treacherous", snowy driving conditions while some white players were told they were not required. He also said the club tried to "frustrate him out" by refusing to pay private medical bills to help him regain his fitness after injury.
Instead, he claimed, he was offered the same operation on the NHS rather than privately, a move he described as "completely out of character" for a Football League club, and that he was fined two weeks' wages when he visited a private consultant. In contrast, a white team-mate was flown to Dubai for treatment by an eminent physiotherapist at the club's expense, he said.
In a letter sent to the Professional Footballers' Association outlining his grievances, McCammon also claimed he was told not to blog while others were permitted to.
Officials at Gillingham said they were "staggered" by the ruling, saying the club had employed thousands of staff of different races and religions. "Today we have received the decision of the Ashford employment tribunal, which sets out their findings that Mark McCammon was unfairly dismissed and that his dismissal was an act of racial victimisation," it said. "We are hugely disappointed, in fact staggered, by this decision. As an organisation we are an equal opportunity employer and do not discriminate against, nor victimise our staff.
"This case is the first of its kind to be brought against the club in its entire history, a history that has seen the club employ many thousands of staff of various race, religion and creed, none of whom have ever felt the need to bring such a claim. Given the nature of the case, and the findings, we will discuss the judgment with our lawyers and decide upon the next course of action, whether that be an appeal against the findings, or another form of action, as deemed appropriate."
McCammon said he was "relieved" at the judgment and that he hoped it would lead other players to raise "legitimate complaints" of discrimination.
A statement issued through his solicitor, Sim Owolabi, said: "Mr McCammon is relieved that he has been afforded the opportunity to put forward the truth about the experience he suffered at the hands of his former employers.
"He is pleased that the employment tribunal has found in his favour and feels that the judgment makes clear that his dismissal was not only unfair but an act of race victimisation.
"Mr McCammon raised a legitimate complaint of race discrimination, which the tribunal found that [the Gillingham chairman, Paul Scally] had discounted from the start as being without merit.
"Mr Scally did not bother to investigate the complaint and ultimately dismissed him because of it.
"The employment tribunal also make clear that the club's witnesses not only colluded in the preparation of their witness statements leading to his dismissal but also colluded in the preparation of their evidence before the employment tribunal.
"Mr McCammon is astounded that the club went to such lengths to both dismiss him and win their case before the tribunal.
"Mr McCammon hopes that his success will make other players feel free to raise legitimate complaints of discrimination and not suffer the traumatic treatment that he has for doing so."
I wasn't there, so this may well be a just decision. However, I worked with players at Gillingham for two years and was around the club and players at least once a week. I never heard any reports of racism.
However, I would definately say that the club management certainly bullied players that they didn't like. I know Kelvin Jack was treated pretty badly just because he was injured and they had to pay for a loan keeper.
But there were also white players who were treated poorly too.
I recall at one period, the Trini players brought in a couple of ladies to provide Caribbean food along with English lunches. If there was racism, maybe that would not have been allowed?
But, I always maintain that racism is a personal matter. What may be plain disrespect to one person, may feel like racism to another of the same ethnicity.
McCammon clearly felt this was racism and his claim has been upheld. While I congratulate McCammon on winning his case, I'm saddened to see the club tagged as racist. Maybe the positive from this is that the management will now treat ALL players with more respect.