A Brentford supporter fined in court on Monday for racially abusing a rival fan in a video was employed by the club last summer despite a previous banning order and suspended prison sentence for football violence.
Steven Green, 39, was banned from attending Bees matches for life after a video circulated on social media in September of him racially insulting a QPR supporter, but the club said the ban could be reduced to three years on condition that he complete an education course involving former Brentford player Marcus Gayle.
A joint investigation by the PA news agency and The Times has learned Green was employed by the club as part of their ‘Farewell to Griffin Park’ tours over the summer, prior to their move to a new stadium, and he is believed to be in a relationship with a club employee.
That was despite Green having already served a four-year banning order between 2011 and 2015 after an affray conviction related to a fight outside Liverpool Street station in London in 2010, for which he was also handed a suspended eight-month prison sentence.
The club said in a statement: “Brentford FC is aware of the sentence handed out to Steven Green for his use of a racist comment in a video published on social media. Brentford FC has already issued a life ban to this individual, removed his season ticket for our new stadium and told him he cannot watch any of our teams play at any venue.
“We can confirm that Mr Green was employed by the club on a casual contract for a short period last summer. This was to assist with the security operation at our Farewell Griffin Park tours for supporters.
“While Mr Green had the relevant qualifications to hold this position, we accept a full background check was not carried out prior to his employment and we have now changed our protocols to prevent anything like this happening in the future.
“Mr Green was recommended for the role by another employee and it is acknowledged that this should not have been the basis on which he was employed and that a far more thorough check should have been carried out before he was given the post.”
The statement added: “It is club policy to not name those we ban. We have a zero-tolerance policy to all forms of discrimination and consider ourselves an inclusive organisation. However, part of that inclusivity is allowing the potential for people to change their views and behave in line with our values.
“Rehabilitation is a key facet in what we are trying to achieve and we believe anonymity assists individuals in their attempt to come back in to our family, something in which Mr Green had complied.”
Through Green’s relationship with a club employee, Green was able to attend Brentford home matches as a VIP before the coronavirus pandemic. It is understood he also attended an away game at Huddersfield last January as his partner’s ‘plus one’ after she was invited by Terriers chief executive Mark Devlin, who previously fulfilled the same role at Brentford.
Green was also quoted in an article on the club’s official website about the Talk Club for Men, an online mental health network, last March.
Green, of Powdermill Lane, Whitton, Middlesex, pleaded guilty at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court to a charge of racially aggravated harassment on Monday in relation to the video filmed on September 12, in which he was wearing a face covering with the club emblem on it.
District judge Andrew Sweet warned Green: “I don’t need to tell you how appalling the language used is. It is highly offensive and when used within the context of football, when we all know what’s going on at the moment, it makes it even worse.
“You have already been in prison once, for affray, and if you want to be back in prison, you know how to go about it.
“If you proceed by using this language you will find yourself going back to prison.”
Green, who represented himself in court, admitted the words he used were “distasteful” and “inappropriate” and said it was “a slip of the tongue”.
The father of two was ordered to pay a fine of £400 and further costs totalling £125 by February 1.
Brentford have set themselves the target of becoming the most inclusive club in the country, and already possess one of the most diverse workforces of any English professional club.
Monique Choudhuri – a leadership, recruitment and inclusion expert – sits on the Brentford board while head of football operations Lorna Falconer is one of very few black women in such a powerful role.
However, Green is not the only supporter the club have had to sanction recently.
Two season-ticket holders were given bans on Christmas Eve for breaching the club’s social media policy.
One of the fans they banned is James Stacey, whose firm JS Electricals is based in Shepperton in Surrey and is registered on the NAPIT site. He declined to comment when approached by PA.
The other supporter suspended on Christmas Eve cannot be named for legal reasons.
Stacey and the other suspended individual are required to undertake education sessions with Kick It Out, the club said, with the feedback from these sessions determining whether the bans should be extended.
The club said further investigations were ongoing into online behaviour among a group of supporters which PA and The Times have been monitoring for almost four months. It is understood another season-ticket holder was given an indefinite ban last year, a further indication of the steps Brentford are taking to tackle the problem.
A tweet from one account, @braeback1, said it hoped terrorist group ISIS would blow up the new Brentford stadium, with Choudhuri inside.
Another tweet from the same account featured a racist term, and regularly features posts referencing Nazism and Adolf Hitler.
Another account, @odc1889, has been suspended by Twitter but had been posting racist and Islamophobic material.
PA has also seen a photograph of stickers which depict holocaust victim Anne Frank mocked up in a Fulham shirt, which it is believed were intended for distribution before the west London rivals’ scheduled meeting in March last year prior to the first coronavirus lockdown.
Similar Anne Frank stickers distributed by fans of Lazio led to the Italian club being fined 50,000 euros in January 2018.
Sources among the fanbase have expressed concern that older fans are effectively grooming a “ready-made army” of young hooligans.
A club spokesman said: “Brentford FC has stated a commitment to be the most inclusive club in the country and we will not shy away from that.
“We took action against Mr Green as soon as we became aware of the video and he has engaged with Kick It Out and club staff since the ban was issued.
“We will continue to remove anyone that acts contrary to our values of equality, diversity and inclusion and will not rest in our desire for everyone to feel welcome at our new stadium.
“We accept that a mistake was made in giving Mr Green the position we did and have reviewed our recruitment processes in the past few months. We do believe in rehabilitation but clearly Mr Green’s past transgressions should have been known to us.
“We would like to reiterate that we have a zero-tolerance policy towards discriminatory behaviour of any kind at Brentford FC. It is vital that our community of fans, present and future, understand that we will not tolerate discrimination.”
Brentford came within one win of a place in the Premier League last summer before defeat to Fulham in the Championship play-off final.
They are fourth in the current table but with a game in hand on the top two, and are in the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night – the furthest they have ever gone in the competition.
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