Prince William ‘deeply concerned’ after children ‘racially abused’ during football matches
Prince William has written to a grassroots football club condemning the racism its players and coaches have faced.
The heir to the throne, who is president of the Football Association, said he was “deeply concerned” by their experiences and that those involved “must be held accountable”.
Alpha United Juniors, a team based in Bradford, first spoke out in November, revealing how for years players as young as seven, have been on the receiving end of slurs and even threats of violence from the sidelines.
In the letter, seen by Sky News and sent on his behalf by a private secretary, Prince William confirmed he had contacted the FA about the claims.
“Racism and abuse has no place in our society,” he wrote.
“Abhorrent behaviour of this nature must stop now and all those responsible be held to account.”
Mohammed Waheed, the chair of Alpha United, wrote to Kensington Palace in January, claiming he had contacted the FA on multiple occasions.
The prince responded to his letter last month, with Mr Waheed deciding to go public because he was unhappy with West Riding FA’s investigation process.
He also revealed he had been contacted “by about 40 clubs” across the country since speaking to Sky News.
A West Riding FA spokesperson said: “We strongly condemn all forms of discrimination and we will always do our utmost to hold perpetrators to account.
“In order for us to gather evidence, raise charges, and issue sanctions against perpetrators, we require witnesses to engage with our judicial process. Despite our best efforts, the club did not support this process.”
West Riding FA also says it is investigating examples of racism flagged up by the club.
Alpha United Juniors dispute this, however, arguing they have provided the evidence needed for the investigations and that it is uncomfortable with parts of the process that could compromise the anonymity of its players.
The pressure on the FA is not just coming from Kensington Palace, but also from Westminster.
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Bradford West MP Naz Shah wrote to the FA’s chair Debbie Hewitt asking her to investigate the issue immediately.
Ms Shah told Sky News: “You’ve got a child being called the P word and another the black B word and other names, that is not okay for anybody in society, there is no place for racism.
“We have made pledges and to show racism the red card, where are those pledges when it comes to grassroots football?”
Ms Shah also disputes West Riding FA’s assertion that Alpha Juniors have not complied with its investigations process.
She says when she wrote to the body, it accepted it had been provided with evidence of racism from the club.
“It’s a contradiction,” she said. “You’ve seen the footage, which is racist, why can’t you investigate? What does it take for the FA to sit up and take notice.”
Another voice calling for change is Mickey Ambrose, a former footballer who is co-chair of the People’s FA, a campaign to reform the Football Association.
He says more diversity in leadership positions at the governing body will help stamp out racism at all levels.
“There is no diversity, it’s jobs for the boys,” said Mr Ambrose. “In a place like Bradford, there’s no chance of having issues like this dealt with quickly.
“We need an open democratic FA and one that comes under the Freedom of Information Act.”