PFA apologises to Jonathan Leko

The Professional Footballers’ Association has apologised to Jonathan Leko after the West Brom striker criticised the union for what he says was its lack of support during his recent racism case against Kiko Casilla.

The PFA promised to review its procedures in light of Leko’s strongly-worded statement in which he said he had had “minimal contact” in the period between his initial allegation and the hearing.

Leko blasted the process that led to Casilla being handed an eight-match ban on Friday, calling it “extremely stressful” and adding that he had been “made to feel that I had done something wrong.”

Leeds goalkeeper Casilla was found to have used racist language towards Leko, who was then playing for Charlton during a Sky Bet Championship match on September 28.

Leko, who has returned to parent club West Brom because of injury, said: “I have been disappointed with the amount of time it has taken to reach this point.

“It was 22 weeks between the incident and the hearing during which I had minimal contact from the PFA, of which I am a member, and no contact in the way of support from leading anti-racism bodies such as ‘Kick It Out’ and ‘Show Racism The Red Card’.

“Some support or guidance would have been very welcome.”

The PFA said it had reached out to Leko via his club but “wrongly assumed” he did not require assistance after failing to hear back.

And it added that it had arranged a meeting with the player, which is scheduled to take place on Thursday.

Kiko Casilla
Kiko Casilla

In a statement the PFA said: “We’d like to apologise to Jonathan. We do not want any player to feel unsupported when going through something as difficult as this.

“We’re grateful for Jonathan’s feedback and will review our procedures to ensure we learn from this moving forward.”

Casilla had denied the charge but an independent regulatory commission found him guilty after concluding it “was satisfied of the evidence in excess of the balance of probabilities.”

The Spaniard was also fined £60,000 and ordered to attend face-to-face education classes.

In his statement, DR Congo-born Leko also said: “I am naturally relieved that the process is now complete and the FA have upheld what I have always known to be true – that I was racially abused by Kiko Casilla in a manner which shocked me and still angers and upsets me to this day.

“I have been disappointed with the amount of time it has taken to reach this point. Knowing what occurred in the game that day, it has been difficult to watch Kiko Casilla continue to play for such a lengthy period as if nothing had happened.

“I would urge the game’s governing bodies to look into their own processes when such incidents are reported.”

Sheffield United v Bristol City – Sky Bet Championship – Bramall Lane
Sheffield United v Bristol City – Sky Bet Championship – Bramall Lane

Leko said the trauma of the trial had left him questioning “whether I would be prepared to go through it all again were I on the receiving end of similar abuse in the future.”

He added: “I certainly would think twice about how to advise another player placed in the same situation.

“From the outset, all I have done is report something that had to be challenged and exposed for what it is – racial abuse. I now want to put the episode behind me and concentrate on recovering from my injury to be ready for next season.”

The PA news agency is also seeking reaction from Kick It Out and Show Racism The Red Card.