‘I’m not a racist at all’ insists youth football manager

COACH Steve Clarke

COACH Steve Clarke

Alan Mak, right, with Henry Harris-Burland from Starship Technologies

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A YOUTH football team manager is under investigation after racist and homophobic comments appeared on his Facebook page.

Hampshire Football Association and the FA are probing allegations made against Steve Clarke, who manages the under-15s squad at Havant and Waterlooville Youth FC.

Mr Clarke strongly denies making the offensive comments about Muslims and homosexuals and says the only explanation he can think of is that his profile on the social networking website was hacked.

The 45-year-old told The News he had been friends with youth team players on Facebook, which means they could have seen the posts online. He said he no longer has the Facebook account.

Mr Clarke, who has previously used an image of himself with young players as his profile picture on Facebook, said: ‘I can get a letter from every player [on the team] who can say I have never preached any racist or homophobic views.

‘I have never, ever, ever, ever, preached any racist or homophobic views to any of the team. Every single player in my team is prepared to write a letter to say they have never heard me say any of that. I’m not a racist at all.’

Mr Clarke said he had attended meetings of the English Defence League in Portsmouth after being invited along.

But he says he stopped attending after two meetings as he believed there was squabbling within the groups and that he is not a member of the organisation.

Mr Clarke added: ‘People who know me know I’m not racist and I’m not homophobic. I wouldn’t have a problem if anyone [on the team] was gay, as long as it didn’t affect football. I do think that two gay people is wrong. It’s my own feeling. But I wouldn’t go preaching to any of my players.’

Mr Clarke is still managing the youth team while the FA investigates. A Havant and Waterlooville Youth FC spokeswoman said: ‘Havant and Waterlooville Youth Football Club have passed all the information relating to the allegations to Hampshire FA who are investigating it further. We will continue to fully support Hampshire FA in their investigation.’

A Hampshire FA spokesman said: ‘Information was forwarded to Hampshire FA by Havant and Waterlooville Youth Football Club regarding allegations made about Steve Clarke on an internet blog. The matter is currently being investigated by Hampshire FA and the Football Association.’

Trevor Brock, secretary of Havant and Waterlooville FC, says the youth club has no links to the Hawks.

‘Havant and Waterlooville Football Club Ltd is a completely separate organisation and affiliated separately to this club,’ he said.

Meanwhile Hampshire police are investigating after Mr Clarke complained that he had received death threats.

A police spokesman said: ‘Police are investigating a report of nuisance communications targeting a 45-year-old man living in Havant.

‘An officer has spoken with the victim during the past week. Enquiries are continuing to identify and contact other members of the public who may have further information.’

Call Havant police on 101.

Campaign groups welcome FA’s investigation

GROUPS which are fighting racism and homophobia welcomed the Football Association’s decision to investigate the comments on Steve Clarke’s Facebook page.

Andy Wasley, of lesbian, gay and bisexual charity Stonewall, commended the FA for taking the allegations seriously.

Mr Wasley said: ‘We’re delighted to see the FA taking allegations of homophobic abuse so seriously.

‘In recent months we’ve seen a number of top-flight footballers disciplined for making insulting homophobic remarks on Twitter.

‘This investigation shows that our national game’s governing body knows it has to challenge discrimination at every level of the sport – from local youth sides to Premiership teams.’

A spokesman from the Kick It Out equality and inclusion campaign, which aims to kick racism out of football, added its support to the investigation into the Facebook comments, which Mr Clarke denies were posted by him.

‘For us as an organisation not only is it unacceptable to use racist and homophobic language but it mars the perception of the game,’ the spokesman said.

‘The damage it does is that people won’t want to engage or play the game.’

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