FIGHTING BACK: Football coach Marcel Gray and his son Paris
A FATHER-OF-THREE who coaches a youth football team in Wales claims he has been the target of a racially-motivated campaign of abuse.
Former athlete Marcel Gray, of Prestatyn, a seaside town in North Wales with a population of 18,496, has alleged he is being bullied by a close-knit group of parents involved with the football team he manages, part of the Rhyl and District football league.
Gray told The Voice his troubles began in October 2011 when he introduced an Asian player and his own 7-year-old son into Prestatyn Athletic’s under-7s squad.
In an extract from his diary documenting incidents of abuse or threatening behaviour, Gray wrote: “[A parent] complained that there was an Asian boy in the team and that she did not like ‘p*kis’ because they put bombs on their women and children and are destructive to our society.’”
Gray challenged her and said this caused tensions to escalate. He alleges that if he did not pick certain children to play, their parents would call him things like “black ba**ard”.
He has now lodged an official complaint with the North Wales Coast FA. Alun Foulkes, general secretary, confirmed an investigation was underway but said it would be unfair to comment at this stage.
Gray said he had previously attempted to ignore the remarks because, “in Wales, if you complain about racism, you’re accused of playing the race card, and people turn on you.
“They always want you to retract your statement or complaint. If you retract the complaint then everybody is happy, but I always refuse to do that.”
The 47-year-old said in April 2012, his alleged tormentors accused him of being a paedophile.
“I don’t know [why they would make such an allegation]. They probably thought that if they said that, then I would be kicked out of the club,” he added. The charges were not investigated because of lack of evidence,” Gray said.
But the abuse and allegations have impacted him and his family and Gray complained that he has received little support from North Wales Police (NWP), despite lodging several complaints about his situation.
"I’m always angry and frustrated, because whenever you go to the police, they say, ‘we’re sorry, there are no independent witnesses so we can’t do anything,” he said.
In order to prove his story, Gray bought a voice-activated dictaphone, but was informed by police that audio evidence would not be admissible in a court of law.
Gray moved to Wales in 1998 from Reading and despite his difficulties, said he has no desire to leave Prestatyn.
“I don’t see why I should run away from people because they don’t like the colour of my skin,” he said.
“I’ve always conducted myself respectfully, and I don’t see why I should run away. And I don’t think it would send a good message to my children.
"I want to fight for my right to co-exist with anybody else in the community, whether it be black, white or whatever your background,” he added.
Dr Adrian Thomas, who runs Avalon Advice, a Bangor-based organisation that offers “free, confidential and impartial” advice, has been supporting Gray.
“Marcel came to us a couple of years ago, and the thing with the football club has been the latest incarnation of what he has been suffering where he lives,” Thomas said.
He sympathised with Gray’s frustration with NWP. “Unfortunately, some of our clients, not just Marcel, get the idea that they’re being given the run-around by the police with a problem getting things recorded properly.
“They [the NWP] don’t follow their procedures; if they spent as much time doing their job as they do coming up with excuses not to do it, then they would be a lot more effective,” said Thomas.
Thomas added that he had no reason to doubt Gray’s story: “I’ve never had anything pop up where he’s not telling the truth.”
A NWP spokesperson said: “We investigate all incidents of racism thoroughly, but we are unable to discuss individual cases.”
One person who regularly features in Gray’s diaries is Welsh Premier League footballer David Hayes who captains Prestatyn Town FC. The volunteer coach, who described Hayes as “the Frank Lampard of Prestatyn”, said Hayes is just one in a group of parents responsible for the abuse.
When contacted by The Voice, Hayes, 31, denied Gray’s accusations. “I’m not a racist,” the Prestatyn defender said.
“Everything [Gray] says is lies, so I don’t want to get involved.”
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