I don’t know Karen Stevens. I’ve never met her, I sit in a different stand at Blundell Park and I’m not aware I know any of her friends. I’m sure she’s a lovely woman with Grimsby Town at heart. But she’s just pleaded guilty to making racist remarks towards another human being. She will be sentenced in court for making disgusting remarks and she will have to pay the appropriate penalties for the result of her life. This post isn’t about one person. It’s about a principle. And it’s about a principle which has to change.
Karen Stevens made a racist remark at a Braintree Town footballer, Aswad Thomas, at a match at Blundell Park last season. Stevens was arrested, charged and has since pleaded guilty to a charge of racially aggravated public order. She is yet to be sentenced. Aswad Thomas has since signed for Grimsby Town. The Grimsby Telegraph report today that Grimsby Town Football Club have asked for Karen Stevens NOT to receive a ban from football grounds as part of her punishment. The newspaper quotes Defence solicitor Rebecca Perrin as saying: “She’s keen to be able to go back to local games and the club are happy to have her back.” This comes, the paper continues, after stadium manager Nick Dale condemned Stevens’ behaviour in a public statement shortly after the incident saying: “We have zero tolerance for racism in any shape or form and in addition to any action taken by police, any perpetrators will be banned from our ground for life.”
So why the sudden change of heart? Why does the club have a “zero tolerance” stance on racism one season, and a different one the next? What about the club’s own “anti-discrimination policy” which is proudly on their own website which boasts “Grimsby Town Football Club is committed to confront and eliminate discrimination whether by reason of sex, sexual orientation, race, ageism, nationality, ethnic origin, colour, religion or disability.” Did those “Kick It Out” advertising hoardings at the side of the ground those last few years really mean absolutely nothing?
Today I want to start a campaign to urge Grimsby Town to do the right thing and ban ANY racist from Blundell Park. As fans we should be telling the powers that be at our football club that racism, of any kind, should not be tolerated. Although the club may not want racists banned from the club, the courts still have the power to dish out football banning orders. But the point is they shouldn’t have to – the club should set the example.
This is a PR disaster for all involved with Grimsby Town Football Club. I’m going to be urging Kick It Out to contact the club to ask them to do the right thing. I would urge any football fan with any backbone or morals, no matter whether you support Arsenal or York City, to do the same. We shouldn’t have to shame the club into reversing their stance, but if we do, we do.
We live in the 21st Century. Racism is NOT acceptable in any form, anywhere. We shouldn’t have to ‘kick it out’. It simply should not happen. The fact that it does, and our football club seems to condone it, is, quite frankly, abhorrent.
To contact the club, (according to their website “if you have a legitimate concern or constructive comment”) you should email firstname.lastname@example.org I hope everyone who reads this will take two minutes to send a polite and constructive message urging the club to ban anyone prosecuted for racism from the ground.
Mr Fenty, there’s still time. Do the right thing. Make a stand and kick racists out of our football club.