Premier League club West Ham United have suspended their director of player recruitment after his alleged comments about African footballers were picked up by the media.
Tony Henry has been suspended ‘pending a full and thorough investigation’, the club has said in a statement, and no further comment will be made until the investigation has been completed.
Accusations of racism and discrimination now surround Henry, who was involved in the club’s transfer policy in this and previous transfer windows.
The revelations follow the club’s sale of Senegal striker Diafra Sakho, who was named specifically in Henry’s alleged comments, and Ghana international Andre Ayew.
In comments seen by MailOnline, Henry said: “We don’t want any more Africans and he’s not good enough” in a conversation about a potential transfer target, before making more troubling comments when asked by the paper whether this was a club policy.
“It’s nothing racist at all. It’s just sometimes they can have a bad attitude,” he is said to have told the paper.
“We had problems with Sakho, with Diafra Sakho. We find that when they are not in the team they cause mayhem. It’s nothing against the African race at all.
“I mean, look, there are top African players. There’s not a problem with them. It’s just sometimes they cause a lot of problems when they are not playing, as we had with Diafra. He’s left, so great. It’s nothing personal at all.”
Lord Ouseley, chairman of anti-racism and anti-discrimination body Kick it Out, suggested Henry’s comments could be potentially unlawful.
“It’s clearly discriminatory but giving instruction to someone to discriminate against a person is unlawful,” he told the Mail.
“Kick It Out would not expect this from any football club official and I would expect that club to take the necessary action.”
And, according to the Guardian’s Jacob Steinberg, Henry’s comments have now filtered through to players at the London club, whose only senior transfer deadline day signing was Preston striker Jordan Hugill.
It won’t surprise you to learn that the Tony Henry story is a hot topic of discussion in the West Ham dressing room today... West Ham have seven first-team players of African descent— Jacob Steinberg (@JacobSteinberg) February 1, 2018
Sakho, who moved to French club Rennes in January, has struggled with injuries since top-scoring for the club in the 2014/15 season.
He played 14 times for West Ham this season, with each one of his appearances coming from the substitutes’ bench.
Sakho’s Senegalese international teammate Cheikhou Kouyate still plays for the club, as do Congolese wing-back Arthur Masuaku and several other players of African descent.