It was only a matter of time before the ugly smear of discrimination reared its head again in grassroots football.

The BAME Football Forum have been talking to Leicester based football clubs who say that during pre-season and from the first official start to the season, racism has already occurred.

An under 14’s team in Leicester removed themselves from the pitch due to the alleged impartial discriminative decisions of the official and one club has a young player end up in hospital.

Leicester Nirvana under 14’s who played their first league game against Green Towers FC on Sunday 27 September, made the brave decision to remove their players from the field of play with approximately 20 minutes of the game remaining.

In a game that was full of goals, saw Nirvana parents left flabbergasted when their player was sent off for spelling his name to the referee. The player was asked his name by the official and continued to say his name followed by the spelling F-R-A-N-C-K.

The young player known as Franck said,

“I was asked my name by the referee, and I told him it was Franck. He did not hear me, so I repeated that my name is Franck and continued to spell it out so that it was clear. The next thing I knew I was being sent off with a straight red card. I asked why, and he said that I had swore at him. I would never swear at an official.”

Richard Thompson, the Nirvana coach for the under 14 team said,

“There were numerous decisions made throughout the game that left us complexed. Our parents started noticing the opposition coach and official giving each other the thumbs up as decisions were made in their favour. We put our faith in the officials’ week in week out and we do not expect to receive such a display of bias. My players were being effected by the subtle racial undertones and we have vowed as a club to empower our young people walk off collectively where we feel the colour of our skin determines the decisions made.”

A Nirvana parent, Beelal Ayoub, went on to say,

“It is incredibly sad and unfortunate that our children have to experience unfairness and for us parents to witness this first-hand. This is heart breaking and It is clear that a lot more needs to be done to make our football community a better place. Many a time in the past I would say we need to respect the referees’ decisions as they are final, and I am sure we all agree and understand this to be the case. However, I never thought a time would come where we would say STOP, we cannot take it any longer. Today is this time when we all say it must stop. We want Changes, we want to be treated the same. We may appear different from the outside, but we have the complete rights to be treated with Respect, Dignity and Fairness in every aspect.”

A statement from Nirvana read,

“We fully support the decision to remove our young players and to protect them from further elements of discrimination. The safeguarding of young players is paramount. We understand that decisions made on the pitch are subjective, however we would still expect a level playing field. The parents that were present at the game have all come forward with concerns over the mistreatment of their players and would like something positive to come out of such a negative experience; suggesting an open discussion with officials or additional equality and diversity training for referees. We have reported our concerns to the Leicestershire and Rutland County FA and await to see what actions will be taken.”


Mukshina Karim, a parent at CFA, a local football club in Leicester told us her sons experience of weeks.

“Whilst my son was marking an opposition player, he said to my son, ‘oh you bitch, you douche, go back to your country you paki’ and he kicked my sons’ knee. No one saw this as a free kick was being taken and I am guessing everyone’s attention was on that. As soon as the ball was kicked in the air, the opposition player elbowed my son straight in the stomach. By Sunday evening my sons’ stomach was hurting and swollen so badly I had to call NHS 111. They advised to go straight to the Emergency Department as the doctor thought it could be his spleen. I spent most of Sunday evening in hospital with him in agonizing pain. The blow to his stomach bruised the inside wall of his muscles hence the pain. This has resulted in him being off school this week with constant pain taking painkillers at regular intervals.

As a parent, I am absolutely appalled and disgusted that this even happened. Unfortunately, racism will always be here but just because no one heard or saw what that child did and said to my son, it does not make it ok. I would like something to be done, and the least I would expect is for that child to be held accountable for his words and actions.”

A statement from CFA reads,

‘As the season has started, like every other season, racism is still evident and still here. It is such a shame to say that it still exists in the game. Our aim is to work together in partnership with the relevant bodies and organisations to educate them and the people around. Is it too much to ask that all the children want to do is to play a much-loved sport, which is football? So why do people continue to spoil & tarnish the game. It’s a game which belongs to us all, so let us play and enjoy it.’

The young players and parents are asking for the opportunity to sit down with representatives for referees, leagues and the Leicestershire and Rutland County FA to share their experiences and support any learning going forward.

The forum is extremely concerned that no progress has been made to stem the tide of these types of incidents happening time and time again.

Ivan Liburd, Chair of the BAME Football Forum said,

“As part of our 10 Point Plan to Combat Racism in Football, we have now written to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) asking them to lead a formal public inquiry into racism and discrimination in football, particularly grassroots football. We have also asked the FA and CFA’s to produce data and intelligence on the current landscape of allegations and charges of racism at a Local level and to make this public, as well as identifying the locations and clubs of perpetrators and victims across all affiliated clubs to identify key hot spot areas that can later be targeted for educational reform.

We are ready to see real changes implemented, and to attack the issues. Clubs are ready, parents are ready, and I think the Country is ready. We just need to work together and get it done, once and for all. We have the means; so why is more not being done?”

These incidents are not the only ones these clubs have faced since football has returned, there has been at least two other incidents where opposition have used the P word, as well as other clubs having also experienced issues early in to the season.

We are aware that at a professional level, there is the emergence of a Footballs Black Coalition to help achieve equality at all levels of the game while also helping prevent conscious and unconscious bias. Which by default could create a pathway for a Black players’ union, something that the BAME Football Forum has recommended in its 10 Point Plan.