ASHFORD, England, Friday June 29, 2012 – Mark McCammon’s racial discrimination case enters its fourth and final day today at an employment tribunal in Ashford, Kent.
The Barbadian international football striker is suing English League Two club Gillingham, claiming he was dismissed after being subjected to racial discrimination.
McCammon, 33, is suing Gillingham and its chairman Paul Scally for race discrimination, breach of contract, unfair dismissal and failure of his ex-employer to pay him. The club has said it “wholly rejects” McCammon’s allegations.
The 6ft 2in striker alleges that he and other black players at Gillingham were treated differently from white players.
He claims he was ordered to go to the club grounds amid “treacherous”, snowy driving conditions while some white players were told they were not required.
McCammon has also alleged that the club tried to “frustrate him out” by refusing to pay private medical bills to help him regain his fitness following injury. He said he was instead offered the choice of undergoing the same operation on the National Health Service (NHS) rather than privately, a move he described as “completely out of character” for a Football League club.
By comparison, the former Charlton Athletic, Swindon Town, Millwall and Brighton & Hove Albion player said that a white player was flown to Dubai for treatment by an eminent physiotherapist at the club’s expense.
McCammon also claims that after leaving the club, Gillingham “were effectively campaigning covertly against me” by trying to sabotage his career.
Strong interest was reportedly shown following his departure by 11 clubs, but talks all collapsed, often at a late stage.
“It soon became known that the chairman had been interfering,” McCammon said in his witness 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, who won five international caps for Barbados, signed for Gillingham in 2008 at £2,500 a week and was the club’s highest paid player.
The first season went well but by his third season with the Kent-based club, they had been relegated to League Two and he suffered an injury that needed an operation.
In his statement, McCammon said: “The way the chairman approached the matter was that he saw my injury as a way to get rid of any financial obligations such as my wages he might have as a result of my contract.
“Effectively, he preferred to offer me some money to get out of the contract rather than have to pay for my injury and help me back to recuperation.
“There was at least eight months left on my contract. It was essential that I completed the operation as soon as possible so that I could get my fitness to the right level and start with the team again.”
Instead, it is alleged, McCammon was “stalled for as long as possible” and eventually he was offered money to terminate his contract.
McCammon said that during his 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 Mr Scally.
The events which led up to McCammon’s dismissal were triggered on November 30, 2010, when south-east England bore the brunt of heavy snowfall.
On that day, McCammon claims that 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,” the statement continued. “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 the 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 was subsequently ordered to attend a disciplinary hearing and later received a letter saying he was dismissed for aggressive conduct towards the manager and racism, it is claimed.
His statement added: “One of my main concerns [was] about the race thing and the way it was handled.
“I had made a complaint that white players had been excused on the snowy day and we, my housemates and I, were required in.
“In addition, knowing that my medical treatment was not allowed for reasons that seemed malicious at the same time as another white player had been flown abroad also raised questions worthy of an answer.
“I thought that the difference in treatment was because of race. The allegation was never explained to me during my employment with GFC.”