A youth football coach has spoken out after he was fined and banned from the pitch for standing up to homophobic abuse.
Skelmersdale United academy manager Darren Wildman took action when he heard a player being homophobically abused during a Skelmersdale U18s’ game in July earlier this year.
With Wildman and his fellow coaches hearing the abuse, it was immediately raised with the referee and the game temporarily halted. After further discussions between the officials and both teams, Skelmersdale decided not to continue with the game to make a stand against homophobia.
After the match, Wildman was charged with causing the abandonment of the game by the Liverpool County FA. He said the disciplinary measures left him “gobsmacked and unbelievably disappointed,” and he now plans to appeal the decision.
“I was made to feel I was in the wrong for taking the players off and that the game could have continued,” Wildman told Sky Sports.
“It’s really affected my mental health – I’ve been in and around the game for 30 years as a player and a coach but now I am considering whether I want to continue after this season or not.
“I don’t think it’s in my best interests to continue because both the County FA and FA in general have offered absolutely zero support over the past five months to myself, the player concerned or to the club as a whole.”
Skelmdersdale United stands firmly behind Wildman, saying: “We wish to put on record our full support for Darren in making a stand against discrimination.”
However, he regrets that many of their young football players have been left thoroughly disillusioned by the situation.
“As a club and coaches we try to provide and open and inclusive platform for young lads to grow as men as well as footballers,” Wildman said. “But a few players have asked what’s the point in standing up for something if I am going to get punished for it.
“Some are also genuinely worried they are going to get charged as well because it was their decision so we’re constantly having to reassure them.”
Liverpool County Football Association released a statement in response, saying: “Liverpool County FA is committed to tackling abuse and discriminatory behaviour and strongly condemns any actions of this nature. All reported allegations are investigated in accordance with The FA’s Rules & Regulations as well as the relevant authorities.
“As part of that process, we are not in a position to comment on individual cases which are ongoing, or subject to appeal.”