Nowadays, you wouldn’t consider Everton a racist club. You wouldn’t give it a single thought. However, once upon a time, they had a bad reputation. Fans made racist chants more often than not, and that is no secret.
Early examples of this include Charlie Perkins and Albert Johanneson. Aboriginal footballer Perkins joined Everton as a triallist in 1957. However, his spell at the club was very brief after a coach at the club called him a “kangaroo b*****d” during an argument between the two. Albert Johanneson, who played for Leeds at the time of the incident, was called a “black b*****d” by an unnamed Everton player.
Incidents of racism were extremely rare, though on one occasion, he complained that an Everton defender – whom he didn’t name – had called him a “black b*****d during the heat of a particularly bitter match. [Leeds manager Don] Revie’s advice was to “call him a white b*****d back.”
Albert Johanneson’s obituary – The Independent
Unfortunately, racism was commonplace and shrugged off everywhere, not just in football, until around the 1960s. Since then, it was rightly frowned upon and condemned. But the racism didn’t stop.
During a match against Liverpool in 1988, some Everton fans threw bananas at John Barnes. In addition to that, there were shouts of “N****rpool! N****rpool! N****rpool!” and “Everton are white!”.
The actions were widely condemned. The incident was subsequently given a special feature on Newsnight. However, Everton fans weren’t the only ones who racially abused him – Liverpool fans booed John Barnes for the entire 90 minutes in one of Barnes’ last games for Watford before joining Liverpool. John Barnes and his black Watford teammates (e.g. Luther Blissett) had encountered racism in most games. Racism was still common in the 1980s and practically every team had the odd idiotic group, but by the 1990s, the fans’ attitude towards black players was mellowed significantly – but not from where Everton were concerned.
With racism still becoming a problem for Everton, fanzine When Skies Are Grey decided to do something about it on behalf of 99% of the Everton fan base they promoted an anti-racism campaign called No Al Razzismo. To promote the campaign, the fanzine sold T-shirts and put the campaign slogan on their covers to show that it was only a minority that were giving Everton this unwanted reputation.
In 1975, Cliff Marshall became Everton’s first ever black player (note: Mike Trebilcock was mixed-race), and he made his last appearance for the club on August 30th, 1975. They then didn’t have another black player until 19 years later. At the time of summer 1994, Everton were the only Premier League club without a black player. But they could have had one the previous year. Everton came close to signing Manchester United striker Dion Dublin but were unable to find the funds. As a consequence, Howard Kendall resigned in December 1993. This shocked Merseyside. Here are the full details:
- After Everton’s League Cup defeat to Manchester United, Howard Kendall had a chat with Alex Ferguson about the prospect of signing Dion Dublin.
- Manchester United were willing to let Dublin go for a fee of £1.8 million.
- Everton only offered £1.5 million – £300,000 below Manchester United’s preferred fee.
- The board refused to give Howard Kendall the extra £300,000 for the transfer.
At the time of his resignation, Howard Kendall made no mention of the Dion Dublin situation. Here are his reasons why he resigned following an interview with the Liverpool Echo:
I would like to emphasise there is no animosity whatsoever between myself and Everton. […] I retain my own self-belief. If you don’t have that, you might as well pack in. I was down on Saturday, but I will soon be bubbling again.
However, this was what Howard Kendall said several years later during a Q&A:
It was never a racist thing. The club was financially not too brilliant at that point, at the same time, because I was involved in all the board meetings and financial situations I knew how much money was available for me to spend.
Alex Ferguson didn’t want to sell Dion Dublin because at that particular time, they were in Europe and the English players were invaluable to him, though the rule’s been relaxed since then. Dion was longer term and, OK, you agree a fee, and maybe you pay a little bit over the odds, but I spoke to my chairman, I spoke to my secretary, and we agreed the deal with Manchester United and agreed the method of payment as well.
Dion Dublin wanted to come to Everton; in fact, he was desperate to come. This was the second time I’d tried to sign him, so when you talk about the racist thing, forget all about that because I tried to sign him from Cambridge.
The next morning, I went into the training ground and the chairman, David Marsh, telephoned me and said, “I’ve been round with the board of directors and we don’t like the Dublin deal – it’s off you can’t go through with it.” So then I had to go through telephoning the player to say sorry and that the board had blocked the deal. I had a couple of days to think about it and I felt so strongly about it – maybe they had financial difficulties at the club, or whatever, but no-one came and talked to me about that. In effect, they had told me I was no longer the manager of the football club because they’d blocked the move.
I knew that we were capable of financing the deal, or I wouldn’t have entered into it in the first place.
It’s hardly surprising that people thought racism could have played a factor in Dion Dublin’s failed move to Everton. A few months previously, some Everton fans were racially abusing Les Ferdinand. Les Ferdinand suffered abuse from Everton fans after he scored a hat-trick against the club. He spoke about the abuse in his autobiography four years later:
The hat-trick at Everton [in 1993] was particularly pleasing because I had always had racial abuse at Everton from their supporters. Doing that to them gave me extra pleasure. There are certain things which stick in your mind during your career as a footballer and the racism at Goodison Park is one of them. Probably the worst thing I have encountered in my professional career has been racist letters coming from supporters – most of which, I have to say, have come from Everton fans. After I scored that hat-trick against them over the Easter period, the letters I got back were disgusting.
The incident didn’t help Everton’s reputation and the failed transfer and Howard Kendall’s resignation made things worse. The players themselves didn’t have a clue why Kendall resigned. Everton were at a nadir. But the following summer, one man came to save Everton’s reputation – Daniel Owefin Amokachi.
At the end of summer 1994, Everton signed Nigerian striker Daniel Amokachi from Club Brugge for £3 million, becoming Everton’s first black player in 19 years. The acquisition of Amokachi hoped to help Everton eradicate their reputation as a racist club, however Peter Johnson and Mike Walker assured that Everton signed him because of his ability, not the colour of his skin.
Colour has nothing to do with it. It’s purely about a player’s ability at Everton.
At this club, we don’t care what colour players are. They can be blue, green or red as far as I’m concerned… Well, perhaps we might draw the line at red!
Everton fans were eagerly waiting to see Daniel Amokachi in action. One fan had a flag specially made (with additional help from the Nigerian embassy to check his spellings). Another fan wrote to the Liverpool Echo saying that he hopes this puts an end to Everton’s ill-gotten reputation.
It was good to see the Everton fans give a warm reception before the Nottingham Forest game – apart from one idiot who ran onto the pitch. Let’s hope that the ‘racism’ tag is now firmly buried and that the new signing helps us out of the mess we’re in.
Everton fan Alan Wilson from Wavertree
Daniel Amokachi was pleased with the warm reception himself.
I was expecting a warm reception, and it just happened the way I wanted it to go. They seemed to appreciate me and to have accepted me already, and they haven’t seen me play yet.
Daniel Amokachi went on to score 14 goals in 54 appearances for Everton, including his famous brace against Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final in 1995. On that day, he entered Everton folklore forever, and to this day, he is still fondly remembered.
Following Amokachi’s cult hero status, one would expect the racism tag to disappear. Alas, no.
Black players were still being racially abused by a minority of Everton fans. Chelsea’s Ruud Gullit was the victim of some horrendous slurs, as told by David Goldblatt:
Gullit was perceived as an alien and as a threat for a myriad of reasons. Foreign, well-spoken, even erudite, his stylish continental masculinity – with football skills to match – ran against the grain of almost every unspoken social and sporting norm of the Everton crowd. Yet while they abused him for having long hair, and threatening the Everton goal, his race became visible. For the record, the day’s epithets, from fans of all ages, included:
- “Get off the pitch, ya f**kin’ gollywog!”
- “F**k off the pitch, ya f**kin’ n****r!”
- “F**k off, ya hippy!”
- “F**k off, ya black c**t!”
- “F**kin’ cheatin’ divin’ black c**t!”
No-one, needless to say, was arrested that day under the Football Offences Act 1991.
Les Ferdinand faced the racist wrath of Everton fans once again in 1996:
What does anger me is when you see parents doing it in front of their kids. When Newcastle played at Goodison on the opening day of the 1996/97 season, I picked up an injury and needed treatment on the perimeter track. As I sat by the touchline, dads in the stand were hurling all kinds of abuse at me, much of it racist, as their sons sat beside them. Those kids will think it is perfectly normal to carry on like that. What I can’t understand is that sort of attitude coming from followers of a team which has included Daniel Amokachi and Earl Barrett.
Following Les Ferdinand’s comments in his autobiography, Everton secretary Michael Dunford proclaimed that the club is trying its best to clamp down on racism.
We do get a little bit tired of this [reputation of being a racist club] being attached to us in particular. Les Ferdinand is entitled to say that he has had problems with Everton fans, but what has happened in the past is history. We have some very good black players at this club and our fans are fully supportive of them. We have worked very hard to tackle this problem and get our house in order.
We are not complacent, but we honestly believe that any problem which might still exist here is no worse than at any other club in the country. The problem exists as it does elsewhere, but it is a very small minority and we believe that we are going down the right road to reduce it still further.
However, their attempts didn’t seem to be successful as at the turn of the millennium, Everton were named Britain’s most racist club. In a survey of 33,000 fans ran by the University of Leicester, 38% said they heard racist comments from Everton fans. By comparison, the next four were Rangers (36%), Celtic (35%), West Ham (32%) and Newcastle (31%).
The results seemed to have spoken for themselves as only a few months later, during a match against Leicester, Everton fans were racially abusing Muzzy Izzet. Everton, once again, condemned the intolerable behaviour, with spokesman Alan Myers saying:
I can assure you that Everton will be writing to Muzzy Izzet to apologise and also to Leicester’s chairman to apologise on behalf of our fans. It wasn’t an awful lot of fans, but that doesn’t matter whether it was one or a thousand – it shouldn’t happen. We work very, very hard at Everton to stamp out any sort of racism and this sort of thing doesn’t help the club.
The racism carried on. In December 2001, Fulham defender Rufus Brevitt and winger Luis Boa Morte was on the receiving end of racism, being victimised by monkey noises and racist chants such as “Get back on the f****in’ jam jar!” and “Trigger, trigger, trigger, shoot that n****r!”. Following this incident, Everton threatened to ban selling tickets to away games if the racism continues. Other chants in the game were at the expense of Liverpool – the fans were poking fun at Emile Heskey (“Oh, Emile Heskey, I want to know, will you be my slave?”) and Gerard Houllier and his heart attack, saying it’s “a wonderful way to spend the day, watching Gerard Houllier pass away.”
The chanting and the obscenities from the minority were widely condemned. Following the Fulham match, Walter Smith said:
Quite simply, there is no place for either racism or violence at Everton FC and we shall do everything within our power to root out the culprits. We shall take strong and decisive action in order to ensure that the reputation of our club is not tarnished by the reckless actions of people who have no place amongst our support.
We feel so strongly about this that, if necessary, we shall even consider halting the sale of our away fixtures – a drastic step which we are desperate to avoid but one which may provide an unpalatable solution to a problem which cannot be ignored and which must be addressed.
We know that 99.9% if our club’s supporters are honest and honourable, and we know that they will back us in this fight against a pernicious evil.
In the wake of Saturday’s events, when a small group of individuals with no regard for common decency sought to tarnish our club’s reputation, it is very reassuring to learn that the vast majority of Evertonians have been swift in their condemnation. The foul-mouthed and dishonourable actions of what we know to be a very small minority has once again called into question the integrity of fair play, honour and equal opportunity.
The Goodison switchboard and email system has been inundated with messages from our loyal, right-thinking supporters who wish to condemn those involved in Saturday’s disgraceful, unforgivable events.
In response to incidents at Leicester and Fulham, the Liverpool Echo reported that club stewards will attend games undercover as fans in the next few away games in order to keep an eye out for any racism and hand out leaflets about urgently stopping racist language being used, as well as three “spotters” to mingle with the fans and catch out any chief racists. Everton have tried the best they could possibly do, and it looked like their best was good enough.
In March 2004, Everton were inducted by Show Racism the Red Card into its Hall of Fame for the club’s hard work and determination to stop racism and put an end to this unwanted reputation. Unfortunately, some fans intended to ruin their success by shouting racial abuse the following year during a match against Aston Villa and after a match against West Brom. There was some reprieve, however, as, according to the Liverpool Echo, some Everton fans stood up to the racists:
Three disgusted supporters challenged the group and a brawl nearly ensued as the racists reacted with venom. A Barnes [Tours Ltd, a Liverpool travel firm] steward warned the group to calm down and returned to his seat. One of the men who challenged the group said as he returned to his seat: “It makes me sick that those b******s get associated with Everton. They’re not fans – they’re scum who’ve drunk too much lager and had too many spliffs.”
Another Everton fan during the near-brawl said, “Proper Everton fans aren’t racist.”
From the eighties to the mid-noughties, it was a difficult time for kind-hearted Evertonians. Because of a minority, their beloved club’s reputation was besmirched, and the Everton fans with a brain were tarred with the same moronic brush. Loads of fans were rightly disgusted.
As an Everton supporter growing up in the 1980s, I watched what were always “all white” line-ups and endured widespread allegations that the racism found on some sections of the terraces was reflected in the club’s selection policy. I can still painfully recall the despondency and sickness I felt deep in my stomach on the occasion that large numbers of fans around me repeatedly chanted “Everton are white!” during a match at Arsenal in the early 1990s.
Fans are sick of this kind of thing happening. We commend the club on its stance, but it’s ridiculous that Walter Smith and the board are having to talk about this when a minority of people can’t handle their drink and are dinging racist songs and using racist language.
From what I’ve heard, there is no sinister organisation behind this but it’s simply louts who have gotten out of control. It has escalated over the last few weeks. The only way it will stop is if the police kick them out of the ground. If you travel all of the way to Fulham but are kicked out for singing racist songs, you won’t do it again.
Mark O’Brien, When Skies Are Grey editor
My wife went to the bathroom and I had sat down next to an elderly guy who was watching the game when he suddenly shouted, “Get the f*****g n****r!” as one of Leicester’s players was on the ball. I told him I found that offensive because my wife was coloured, but he refused to stop. Then the table behind, with several men sitting at it, started saying things like: ‘We don’t want n****rs playing for, or supporting this club’.
The comments weren’t directed at my wife, but they went on for five to 10 minutes and she was around when some of them were said.
As a follower of Everton FC at that time, I was absolutely appalled by the horrendous anti-black attitudes of large sections of the terrace and even by some members of the Family Enclosure. Disgracefully, I am assured by Liverpool fans (pre-John Barnes) behaviour at Anfield was identical.
Once, with my eldest son (then aged about nine), I was so disgusted by the verbal abuse given out by a couple of morons behind us in the Family Enclosure against three black QPR players, I decided to speak out – with a certain amount of trepidation. I asked why they were so bigoted and prejudiced, adding that I did not want my son to judge a player by his colour but by his ability and attitude.
Amazingly, the crowd around me began to support my stance in this matter and, even more amazingly, the two racists shut up and did not offer me a hospital visit.
I write this letter solely to point out the major fact that many of our local fans were enormously anti-black in their outlook.
Obviously, Everton and Liverpool supporters have evolved somewhat since then but, sadly, the question remains: Would the racists have changed had their own teams not taken on an admittedly small percentage of black players in the 1980s? I doubt if they became naturally humane and fair-minded.
Michael Quayle’s letter to the Liverpool Daily Post
This post is, admittedly, a bit long-winded. However, the length of this post highlights how huge a problem Everton had with racism. Despite numerous incidents, the club tried hard to put an end to it and to get rid of the slanderous reputation, and they were (eventually) successful. It took until the mid-noughties for that to happen. It took a very long time, but nowadays, not one word has been uttered about Everton being a racist club. Which proves that racism can be stopped.