"We are passionate and loud in the support of our team but we are definitely not racist and do not tolerate racism in any form. " That's what Millwall's chairman said when responding to the media's coverage.
We should start this off by saying that there are few clubs in England that have done more to curb racist action among supporters than Millwall FC. In 1994, the Millwall Anti-Racism Trust was born and has worked alongside Millwall FC to make the Den a more hospitable place for all parties involved, except the opposition. Despite all of the hard work and what people may say, Millwall's reputation precedes them.
As a result, this is why were so many were shocked by the allegations that Marvin Sordell brought against the club's supporters following Bolton's loss two weeks back. Sordell, in a series of tweets after the match, said that he, Benik Afobe, Darren Pratley, and Chung-Yong Lee received racist abuse from the fans at the Den.
The media at large has been hot on the case of this story and have taken a largely negative tone on Millwall and its fans. Because of this, Millwall chairman John Berylson has taken it upon himself to issue issue a statement condemning the media's coverage.
On their official website, Berylson said:
At Millwall we have done as much, if not more, than any other club in the country to highlight the need for equality within our game, something recognised by the FA and Kick it Out, a fact that is not always acknowledged within the media.
We don't just talk a good game on the subject we deliver via Millwall For All and a culture throughout our club. Our current player of the year, as voted by the fans is Jimmy Abdou and the year previously it was Tam Mkandawire. A slogan we adopted some years ago is ‘Lions have pride, not prejudice' and that sums up our position accurately.
Consequently, we were dismayed and disappointed by the nature of some of the media coverage we received when Marvin Sordell alleged, via twitter after the Bolton game, that he had been racially abused.
The inference in some articles on the subject, was that Millwall is a racist club.
Previous incidents, largely those in which we had been exonerated, were dredged up as Millwall was tried and found guilty in the court of public opinion.
We were not the only ‘losers' in this. The whole issue of racism itself was trivialised by some sensationalised mud-slinging, when the aim of everyone involved should have been to attempt to substantiate the allegations and to ensure any appropriate action could be taken.
Millwall, Bolton Wanderers, the FA and the police are taking the allegations seriously, however.
The investigation is ongoing and we are doing everything possible to unearth the facts.
If an individual is found to be guilty of racial abuse we will ban them from our club for life.
It is time for all of us within the Millwall family to show the world what we stand for. We are not prepared to be universally branded as a racist club or a hooligan club any longer, because it patently isn't true.
However, I am not naïve. There are people in our society who sadly hold racist views and unfortunately some of them bring those views into football grounds up and down the country. It is to our and football's credit that these individuals do not have a voice within our game, which sadly does not seem to be the case in certain other countries.
What we hope for, going forward, is an even break and some acknowledgement that Millwall is not the problem but rather contributing significantly towards the solution.
We have worked and continue to work very hard to tackle important issues and to change the traditional public perception of our club.
We are passionate and loud in the support of our team but we are definitely not racist and do not tolerate racism in any form.
I would like to appeal to all of us at Millwall to show the football world what we are proud of.