The PFA has welcomed the news that former Crawley Town manager John Yems has been suspended from all footballing activity until June 2024 following an FA disciplinary hearing.
The outcome is the result of a process which began when Crawley Town players raised concerns to the PFA, the players' union, regarding multiple incidents of discriminatory behaviour in their workplace. The PFA subsequently worked with the players concerned to report the issue and take forward the complaint through formal disciplinary channels.
Jason Lee, who amassed over 650 appearances during his professional career, is now Senior Equalities Education Executive for the PFA. He has played a key role in working with the members involved and wants the outcome of the hearing to give others the confidence to come forward if they experience discriminatory behaviour.
Lee said: "The players involved came to the PFA to tell us about their experiences, and we have worked with them throughout this process.
"It takes bravery to come forward to report issues like this. When players make that decision, they are likely to have given it a lot of thought. What will it mean for my future at the club? Will it impact my career if I say something?
"One of the most significant considerations will be the risk that they will be ignored or that they won’t be taken seriously."
Lee has commended the players for pursuing the case through what has been a lengthy process, ensuring that the discriminatory behaviour has been properly and publicly addressed.
Lee explained: "It's a massive thing for any individual to do, and that's why it's so vital that players have confidence that they will be listened to, believed and supported.
"This case has taken time, but the fact that it was taken all the way through to today’s conclusion is vital. The FA have also demonstrated the seriousness with which they take this, and they should be commended for making sure the process was followed. It shows that a collaborative effort on these issues can achieve positive outcomes.”
"People might try to persuade players that it's easier for problems to be dealt with 'in-house' without this kind of scrutiny, but that doesn't address the real issue.
"I hope this outcome shows our members that there is a process in place, that it will be followed, and it can result in proper punishment.
"A person's behaviour won't change unless they are held to account. Letting it go unchecked and allowing them to just quietly reappear in other roles at other clubs doesn't protect the players."
Lee acknowledges that the case has been challenging for those involved but wants to reassure players in a similar situation that they will not be left to take action alone.
He states: "This has been a thorough process, but it has been long and demanding on the players involved. We’re aware that’s something that might put players off, so they must know that their union has their back.
"My message to all members is to reach out. This is what the PFA is here to do. You don't just have to put up with this kind of behaviour and we will support you every step of the way."
The PFA have also been campaigning for EDI training to be made mandatory within all clubs, and Lee said that the case reinforced the need for everyone in football to be equipped to recognise discriminatory behaviour and be confident that they know how to take appropriate action.
“It’s vital that the structures are in place to tackle this kind of behaviour when its reported, but for the process to work everyone needs to be able to recognise discriminatory behaviour when they see it.
“That requires conversations and education. We already do a huge amount of work with players and staff within clubs around these issues, but making this kind of training mandatory would demonstrate that football sees this as a priority.”