Tony Henry, Director of player recruitment for West Ham have been sacked by the team management over uncomplimentary remarks about African football players.
His dismissal came 12 hours after the club announced an inquiry into a report in the Daily Mail that Henry had claimed some African players “caused mayhem” and that West Ham “don’t want any more Africans”. It is understood the club acted after reading a full transcript of an interview he gave to the newspaper.
A West Ham spokesman said: “West Ham have terminated the contract of director of player recruitment, Tony Henry, with immediate effect following his unacceptable comments that were widely reported in the press.
“Our action follows a full and thorough investigation. West Ham United will not tolerate any type of discrimination. The West Ham family is an inclusive one where, regardless of gender, age, ability, race, religion or sexual orientation, everybody feels welcome and included.”
Henry, who had worked for the club since 2014, is reported to have sent an email to an agent and a club executive asking them not to recommend any more African players. When confronted over the contents, Henry admitted to having made similar remarks to other agents. He told the Mail: “It’s nothing racist at all. It’s just sometimes they can have a bad attitude.”
Henry claimed the strategy towards signing African players was supported by club management. West Ham deny that is the case. They have one player capped by an African country in their squad, Senegal’s Cheikh Kouyaté, but five other players who could claim nationality.
In the January transfer window West Ham sold Ghana’s André Ayew and Diafra Sakho of Senegal. David Moyes said earlier on Friday the club had been expecting to sign two African players on transfer deadline day, only for both deals to fall through.
Speaking before Henry’s dismissal Moyes said: “[Henry’s] comments are wrong. We were signing two players from Africa on deadline day. We have an open transfer policy, we always look to sign good quality players and it doesn’t really matter where they’re from at all.”
The manager added: “I have never experienced prejudice in a club’s transfer policy.” He also denied ever having heard anyone call African players disruptive. “I’ve heard them say Scottish players are disruptive,” he said.
The two deadline-day players West Ham had hoped to sign were Leicester’s Islam Slimani and Ibrahim Amadou of Lille. Moyes said both targets had been recommended by Henry, with whom he had also worked at Everton. The Cameroon-born Amadou was, said Moyes, the subject of a “really big” loan offer but stayed at Lille. The Algerian Slimani moved to Newcastle.
The Guardian reported Leicester decided not to broker a deal with West Ham after remarks made by the vice-chairman, Karren Brady, in a Sun newspaper column. “It’s a question for the club, not for me,” Moyes said, insisting Brady’s column was “not a problem”.