Former Newcastle United forward Peter Beardsley has been suspended from all football-related activity for 32 weeks for making racist comments to players.
Ex-England man Beardsley called one black player “a monkey” while Newcastle’s Under-23s coach and joked about climbing trees, an independent Football Association panel said.
It added his remarks “were obviously racist and wholly unacceptable”.
Beardsley said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the panel’s findings.
He was charged by the Football Association with three counts of using racist language to players in March and had “categorically denied” the claims.
He left Newcastle after a 14-month club investigation earlier this year.
The FA panel said in its written reasons: “Even if he did not intend to do so, he plainly did cause offence.”
Beardsley, who was capped 59 times by England, has been ordered to complete a face-to-face education course.
However, the panel said it did not believe Beardsley was racist. “We are satisfied that Mr Beardsley is not a racist in the sense of being ill-disposed to persons on grounds of their race or ethnicity,” it said.
“He is now 58 years of age. It is also relevant that he has not had the benefit of training and education about offensive racist remarks and the importance of not making them.”
One of the witnesses to the “monkey” comment” said: “I don’t think Peter meant it as racist, but it came out looking bad as he is a black player.”
The panel did, though, say it had “serious reservations about Mr Beardsley’s credibility”.
One of the aggravating factors in deciding its punishment was that Beardsley had contended that “three of the black players had made up the allegations motivated by financial greed, for which he did not have a shred of evidence”.
As a player, Newcastle-born Beardsley enjoyed two spells at his hometown club, making more than 300 appearances, and also played for Liverpool, Everton, Manchester City, Fulham, Bolton, Hartlepool, Doncaster, Carlisle and Vancouver Whitecaps.
What were the charges against Beardsley?
All three charges were proven by the panel, which found:
- Beardsley said: “You should be used to that” to one or more black players of African origin at a team-building event at Go Ape
- He questioned the legitimacy of the age of black players – “a negative stereotype that players of black African origin commit fraud as to their true age”, the FA panel said, and
- He called a player of black African origin a monkey during a game of head tennis.
Football’s anti-discrimination group Kick It Out called on Newcastle to publish its own findings from its internal investigation in the wake of the FA panel’s punishment, “and clarify whether he was sacked for racist abuse”.
It added: “Beardsley’s career in football has no relevance to this case – calling black players monkeys, comparing black players to apes and questioning their true age are all horrific racial stereotypes. Punishment and education is the only way to deal with these matters.”
Beardsley questions findings and vows to return
A statement from Beardsley’s solicitors released shortly after the verdict was made public said: “Peter Beardsley is very surprised and disappointed by the decision of the Regulatory Commission.
“It was almost impossible for Peter to clear his name because of the serious flaws and contamination of evidence that occurred in the disciplinary process before Newcastle United and by the unusual fact that the FA Rules put the burden of proof on him to prove his innocence in the proceedings.
“After a long process which has been unnecessarily protracted, Peter feels vindicated that the Commission has expressly found that he is not a racist.”
It added he had been “inundated with support” from “fellow professionals of the highest repute including John Barnes, Kevin Keegan, Les Ferdinand and Andrew Cole, as well as other football professionals including managers, coaches, players, and football fans, all of which provided unchallenged evidence to the Commission as to Peter’s good character, the fact that he is not a racist and whatever was said, there was no intent to cause offence”.