Exclusive: Sheffield-based Football Association chairman quits and is “full of remorse and embarrassed” after Islamophobic post on Facebook

One of football's most distinguished, elder statesmen - Sheffield's Brian Jones - has severed all links with the Football Association after sharing an Islamophobic "joke" on Facebook.

By Bob Westerdale
Tuesday, 09 April, 2019, 10:20
Brian Jones, formerly of the County FA

Jones stepped aside from his role in the national FA and as chairman of Sheffield and Hallamshire County FA (SHCFA) when an inquiry was launched into what he calls a "momentary lack of judgement," in January.

But now he has quit public life altogether after being fined, told to go on an equality course and suspended by the FA for insulting and abusive conduct.

Brian Jones

He told The Star: "It goes without saying that I am very sad at what has happened; that I am full of remorse and terribly embarrassed by my momentary lack of judgment.

"I would willingly, and without hesitation, apologise to anyone offended by the re-post."

Jones shared a Facebook post on January 6, from a site called 'Geordie Jokers' which included an image with the caption: "Pork fact 16: people who eat pork are less likely to blow themselves up."

Two hours later a friend suggested the content would upset people, so he asked his son for help to remove it from the site.

Local FA crest

But word got around.

And when phoned by an FA official, Jones said he was sorry.

Then he went on to suggest the complaint had only been made because there were "people who did not like him," one of whom he described as a man of “foreign extraction”.

Jones later explained that term as "just the way people of my generation describe it."

Chairman Brian Jones

Three days after the post, FA chairman Greg Clarke accepted Jones' resignation from his prestige national role with the FA Council.

And a day later, Jones voluntarily stood down as chairman of SHCFA.

A three-person FA Disciplinary Commission met at Sheffield's Mercure St Paul's Hotel on February 26, to probe allegations of "aggravated improper conduct."

They were clearly rankled that Jones had found the post funny.

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Brian Jones

They preferred to call it offensive and discriminatory. It had been "directed at a specific religious group namely Muslims and was Islamophobic."

They acknowledged that Jones had admitted his mistake quickly but were troubled by his "lack of insight.

"Despite questions to elicit understanding (Jones) demonstrated very little awareness as to why people might be upset.

"Instead, he sought to shift the blame onto others whom he believed had an ulterior motive for reporting the matter," said their report.

During the inquiry, Nether Edge-based Jones, believed to be aged around 70, accepted that,  as FA Chairman, trustee and director, he presided over an area with a sizable Muslim community.

He was fined £100, immediately suspended from football for 49 days and ordered to complete the FA’s equality and diversity education course.

But eight days ago, the former lawyer, who in 2011 sat on the Commission that found Liverpool's Luis Suarez guilty of racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra in 2011 leading to an eight-match ban and a £40,000 fine, quit the Sheffield role he cherished.

Today, he told The Star: “I am guilty of a momentary lack of judgment. Not for one iota of a moment did I anticipate that any offence could be caused, especially to anyone who knows me personally.

"The report was not directed to any one person or any particular race or religion or any of the other 'protected characteristics.'

"I have personally apologised to the Chairman of The FA National Game Board; to the Chairman of The FA; to The FA Company Solicitor; to the Head of the Judicial Services and his staff; by email to members of FA Council; and to those who have telephoned me I have apologised personally."

The SHCFA website still carries a picture of Jones and others on its "Meet the Team" page.

A veteran member of the Sheffield football circuit commented: "Brian has had 30 years of distinguished service and hasn't got a bad bone in his body.

"He made a mistake by re-posting something and has accepted responsibility and apologised.

"Brian has been a regular at a huge series of events ranging from England football matches to the smallest local park game for a long, long time and been involved in countelss charity fund-raisers.

“His contribution to grassroots football in the Sheffield area and beyond must not be overlooked by one Facebook re-post that was erased in two hours on a Sunday afternoon."