Bajan striker wins landmark race discrimination case
Mark McCammon’s case is the first of its kind to be proved by a footballer before an employment tribunal in Britain.
KENT, England, Wednesday August 01, 2012 – Former Barbados international player Mark McCammon has not only proved his point, but has made history by winning the first race victimisation case brought by a footballer in a public forum in England.
McCammon, 33, won the landmark case after an employment tribunal ruled he was racially victimised at his former club.
The 6ft 2in striker took legal action against the Gillingham FC after being dismissed for alleged misconduct last year.
McCammon’s claim for race discrimination – which is thought to be the first by a professional footballer – and unfair dismissal was brought against the League Two side and its chairman Paul Scally.
Legal experts estimated McCammon would expect to receive in excess of £40,000 compensation, although the figure could be higher.
McCammon's barrister nevertheless said that the tribunal panel had reserved its decision on compensation until a hearing scheduled for August 10.
Rad Kohanzad, of Atlantic Chambers, Liverpool, said the ruling represented a landmark in British football as the first instance of racial victimisation being proved by a player.
“Usually, most disputes between club and player are dealt with by the Football League or the Football Association internally,” he said.
“However, this is the first race victimisation case that a footballer has brought before an employment tribunal, in a public forum.”
Officials at Gillingham were reportedly “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,” the club said in a statement.
“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.
“There will be no further comment on the case by the club until the matter has run its full course.”
McCammon had told a hearing in Ashford, Kent, that he and other black players at the club were treated differently from white players.
He said he was ordered to go to the ground amid “treacherous”, snowy driving conditions while some white players were told they were not required.
He further stated that the club tried to “frustrate him out” by refusing to pay private medical bills to help him regain his fitness following injury.
Instead, he claims he was offered the same operation on the NHS [National Health Service] 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 paid a visit to a private consultant.
The former Charlton, Swindon, Millwall and Brighton player said that, in contrast, a white teammate was flown to Dubai for treatment by an eminent physiotherapist at the club's expense.
In a letter sent to the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) outlining his grievances, McCammon also claimed he was told not to blog while others were permitted to do so.
McCammon told the tribunal that he had been “put through hell” at Gillingham and had not been given an answer over why he was treated differently to other players.
Dubai-based Gillingham chairman Paul Scally said McCammon's claims were made “maliciously and without foundation”, adding that the club had not had to deal with an allegation of racism in 18 years.
McCammon also said that during an injury spell, he had to stay behind at the club for four hours longer than the other injured and non-injured players. He claimed this was on the “strict instructions” of Scally.
“Once the players had all left, I sat there watching mind-numbing daytime TV and Britain's Got Talent,” McCammon said.
“The process of waiting was designed to inflict maximum levels of frustration on me and it certainly had that impact. Sitting at the club instead of progressing with my operation was like watching paint dry.”
The events leading up to McCammon's dismissal were triggered on November 30 2010, when south-east England was experiencing heavy snowfall.
On that day, McCammon said he and two other black players - Josh Gowling and Curtis Weston - were told to make the four-mile drive from the house they shared to the club's medical rooms.
“One of my housemates had contacted another player who lived about two miles nearer to the club who was also due to attend the medical centre with us on that day,” McCammon's statement said.
“He was a white player who had informed us that the club physiotherapist had told him that he was not required to come in on that day because of the snow.
“There was a further player we contacted who was in the same boat, ie he needed to attend the club for physio on the same day. He lived further down in Kent in Maidstone and had a longer drive in.
He was white and had been informed by the club staff that he also did not need to come in for the day because of the snowy conditions.”
Later, McCammon said one of them received a text message threatening to dock them two weeks' wages unless they made it to the stadium by midday.
When he arrived at the club, McCammon said he headed to manager Andy Hessenthaler's room to confront him about being “racially intolerant” over the decision to order them in. He claimed that Hessenthaler reacted angrily.
“He lost his temper and flayed the contents of his table. He pushed the table over, throwing overboard the computer on it and all its other contents,” McCammon said.
“It was the most aggressive and temperamental physical display of tantrum I had ever seen. The body poise in his language as he stood up to address me was a stance that stated: 'How dare you talk to me?'
“I was concerned he was going to attack me and I asked whether he was planning to hit me.”
McCammon was subsequently ordered to attend a disciplinary hearing and later received a letter saying he was dismissed.
The forward said that after leaving the club, Gillingham “were effectively campaigning covertly against me” by trying to sabotage his career.
Strong interest was shown following his departure by 11 clubs but talks with all collapsed, often at a late stage.
“It soon became known that the chairman had been interfering,” McCammon said in his statement.
“My agent was told by other agents that the job he was doing was an impossible one as they were aware that GFC were effectively campaigning covertly against me with the intention of sabotaging my career.”
McCammon originally signed for Gillingham in 2008 at £2,500 a week and was the club's highest paid player.
“It was a phenomenal deal,” he said. “It was a deal that most players would have taken.”
He disputed claims that the “trade-off” for such a generous salary was that if Gillingham remained in League Two during contract terms, his salary would be cut by 15 percent.
“There was absolutely no way I would have agreed to that. That wasn't making sense to me,” McCammon said.
The tribunal has heard that a clerical error in McCammon's contract meant the 15 percent line was accidentally omitted despite being agreed verbally.
McCammon's explosive case comes after other high-profile incidents concerning racism allegations in football.
John Terry has vowed to fight an FA charge of making a racist remark towards QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.
Terry was found not guilty of a racially aggravated public order offence at Westminster Magistrates Court on July 13.
Last season, Liverpool's Luis Suarez was banned for racially abusing Patrice Evra, but that case never went to court.
In February, British Prime Minister David Cameron hosted a summit at 10 Downing Street amid widespread concern over racism in football.