West Ham United have sacked Tony Henry, director of recruitment, over alleged comments by him saying that he would not sign any more African players.
The club decided to split with Henry on Friday after an investigation by the Daily Mail claimed he said that African players “have a bad attitude” and “cause mayhem” when not selected. West Ham have said that Henry’s comments were “unacceptable” and added that the club “will not tolerate any type of discrimination.”
On Friday, West Ham manager David Moyes stated Henry had recommended two players from Africa during the January transfer window. He told BBC Sport the club were “very, very close” to signing Leicester’s Algerian forward Islam Slimani and Lille’s Cameroon defender Ibrahim Amadou. Moyes insisted the club does not have a discriminatory transfer policy and condemned Henry’s comments.
Moyes, who has worked with Henry at Everton, expressed his surprise. He said: “It’s a massive shock, because you are well aware of the couple of players we were trying to sign on deadline day, so that’s why it’s a big surprise. I’ve known Tony and he has to get on with his stuff but all I can say is that it wasn’t correct because we were trying to sign two players like that on deadline day.”
He continued: “You can see the players the club has signed over the years – we sign good quality players, the best we can get. It doesn’t matter where they are from. Never, ever, never at all have I experienced prejudice like that.”
When asked if the reports have had a detrimental effect on African players in his squad, Moyes admitted he has conferred with them and found no ill will: “I have spoken with one or two of the African players and they seem fine.”
“They have trained well and morale in the camp is good because we are on the back of a pretty good run. The players are doing well so hopefully we can keep it going.”
The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) said it was “shocked” by the reported comments. They told BBC Sport: “The PFA strongly condemns any such views and there is no place for them in football.”
The club has six first-team squad members of African descent: Pedro Obiang, Joao Mario, Cheikhou Kouyate, Angelo Ogbonna, Arthur Masuaku and Edimilson Fernandes.
Senegal striker Diafra Sakho left the club in the January transfer window to join Rennes, as well as Ghana international Andre Ayew heading to Swansea.
This is not the first time racism has been an issue in football as Eni Aluko, a player for the England women’s team, experienced racist remarks from manager Mark Sampson. He allegedly said to her to make sure that her Nigerian relatives did not bring Ebola to a game at Wembley. Aluko told The Guardian that the Football Association knew about the comment – described in a letter from the PFA to the governing body as a “racist joke” – since November 2016.
Barrister Katharine Newton concluded that Sampson was guilty of “ill-judged attempts at humour, which as a matter of law were discriminatory on grounds of race within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010.”