In September 2010, Trevor spoke out about the racial abuse he received, and reported it to the County FA.
Trevor Benjamin works as a coach for Show Racism the Red Card. He became involved in the campaign a year ago after the racism he received from an opposition player when he was at Morpeth Town. In light of the high profile allegations of racism within football in the last few weeks, SRtRC Campaign Worker, Jo Wallis spoke to Trev to find out how the County FA had responded to the racism he reported last September.
The first time we met was just over a year ago – when you spoke to Show Racism the Red Card following racist comments made to you during a game? You reported this to your County FA. What happened?
That’s right, I reported it to the County FA and we had a hearing. As far as I know, the player did get in trouble for it, but exactly what punishment he got I’m not sure. I’ve been trying to get hold of them back and forwards but it’s been a bit of a nightmare. I’m really not sure actually what the outcome was and just need to keep on chasing them up to find out what the punishment actually was.
Did the person who was racist towards you admit it?
No, he still denied it. I think his player manager at the time was there and in the hearing he got caught out a bit on inaccuracies in his statement – the County FA pulled him up on it. So it was kind of “hold on a minute”: they sat back and looked what he said and thought, “well, that isn’t right”. The statements didn’t add up.
There were witnesses though, weren’t there?
There were a few witnesses who wrote letters and gave their statements but we don’t know what they have done with that information.
So as far as you’re concerned he would have been found guilty?
Yes, absolutely. Definitely very guilty of it. But what the County FA have done about it – if anything - I just don’t know.
Were you asked during the hearing what you wanted the outcome to be - what action you wanted to see?
Well, in the hearing there were all sorts of details discussed – exactly what he did or didn’t do, what he said or didn’t say. The County FA didn’t really ask me what I wanted; they’ve just gone ahead and done what they wanted to do. But the outcome is… well, I don’t even know what the outcome is….
How do you feel about this situation – it’s a year on now and no real resolution?
I think the FA need to do a bit more. In a few other situations that have arisen in the last couple of months that’s been made really clear. The FA need to stamp it down. Have a rule and make it clear what the ruling is. They need to establish it across all of the leagues. To say: this is the case. If you are racist and you are found guilty then these are the consequences. That’s what needs to happen.
We’ve had two high profile alleged incidents in the past couple of weeks that have hit the headlines. Racism is something that you’ve experienced and perhaps other footballers have dealt with. Do you think it's possible that some players are reluctant to speak out about racism because they don’t know what will happen?
Hopefully not, because as a campaign Show Racism the Red Card have come a long way to get people to open up and to understand about racism. I don’t think players who’ve suffered from racism should be frightened about speaking out - hopefully they will come out and say it how it is and be in a position to deal with the consequences. At the end of the day, if they are speaking their minds and saying what’s hurt them then the long run that’s the most important thing. I hope people will speak out if it happens to them.
Do you think there should be any anti-racism element to an FA sanction that's given following a racist incident?
I believe that footballers and sports people should go out and gain an understanding of racism and what it’s about. They need to understand how it makes you feel. That might cut some of those racist attitudes out.
Racism comes from ignorance and a lack of understanding. Education is therefore part of the solution to that?
Absolutely, and it’s not just about educating the kids, we’ve got to educate adults as well; players who are in the limelight. It’s about re-educating them. Yeah you might know about racism, but do you really know about it?
Surely it’s all the more surprising within football though? How can you be unaware about racism given the huge diversity of the game, with all the different nationalities within each team?
Of course, they should know about it but do they really understand it and what it means? Perhaps unless you’ve taken the time to think about what it actually feels like to experience racism yourself then you’re unaware.
Do you think player-to-player racism is still quite rare within the game?
Yeah, I do think so. But the idea that racist comments are just an ‘of the moment’ thing are nonsense – it’s their own thoughts that come out of their mouth. You may well have a bit of an argument back and forward on the pitch but you don’t just come out with racism ‘off the cuff’, so definitely that’s quite rare. I honestly couldn’t say why players are racist to their opposition. I mean, we’re all the same, I can’t understand why.
The whole concept of SRtRC is that we look to footballers as positive role models for young people. Do you think these all of the allegations of racism in recent weeks are damaging to that image?
Big time! As a campaign, we try and help the younger generation to understand about racism so they can take on board that information and grow up to pass on that message. It’s a tough battle because we’re trying to use footballers and ex-footballers to get the message out there. How can we get that message across if the pros are doing it? If the pros are doing it, the kids will see that and think, “Well, if he did it then I can do it”. That just isn’t the case and that’s what we’re about. We’re trying to get rid of that attitude – no matter who did it and who said it you need to cut it out altogether. It’s a big task to cut racism out all together but we’re working on it, slowly but surely.