Football Australia backs Kerr, amid reports of split over race charge

Cabinet minister Jason Clare gives his verdict on Sam Kerr 'racism'

Source: X/Jason Clare

Football Australia has pledged its support for Sam Kerr amid reports of a split with its star player after her surprise appearance in a London court this week.

Kerr has yet to comment publicly after pleading not guilty to racially aggravated harassment of a police officer.

A trial has been slated for next February, after Kerr was charged with using insulting, threatening or abusive words that caused alarm or distress to the constable during an incident in Twickenham, south-west London, on January 30 last year.

Kerr, who was not charged until January 21 this year, is accused of calling him a “stupid white bastard”.

Football Australia issued a statement on Friday backing Kerr. It came after website Code Sports reported a fallout between her team and FA after the Australian organisation’s boss admitted being “blindsided” by her court appearance.

James Johnson and Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson both said on Tuesday they had learned of Kerr’s charge only after she had appeared in court.

“First time I ever heard about it was this morning,” Gustavsson said.

“I can make it very clear that today was the very first time I ever heard about it.”

Code Sports reports Kerr’s team is also disappointed in FA’s response compared to the “empathy” offered by the manager of her London-based team, Chelsea.

Gustavsson asked about Sam Kerr charge

Source: AAP

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes said this week that Kerr “has our full support, she knows that” – although she did not say when she learned of the incident.

“It’s a difficult time for her,” Hayes said on Wednesday.

“Of course I can’t comment [on the court case] … I can say that I know she’s pleaded not guilty and I don’t want to do anything to jeopardise anything for Sam by speaking about it.

“I want to make it clear that Sam will be supported by me and everybody else.”

In return, FA reportedly wants to know why Kerr did not inform it of the looming court appearance.

FA hierarchy has been in touch with the global football star and her management since the news broke, amid increasing speculation about Kerr’s case.

In a fresh statement on Friday, Johnson said he wanted to “reaffirm our support for Sam Kerr amidst the current allegations”.

“Sam has pleaded not guilty and her right to a fair and just legal process is important,” he said.

“We trust the judicial system to handle this matter appropriately and urge respect for the legal proceedings.

“We are in touch with Sam and her team and Football Australia is committed to supporting Sam throughout this process.”

Kerr’s lawyers are expected to argue an abuse of process at a pre-trial hearing on April 26 and seek to have the charge downgraded or dropped.

There were multiple reports earlier on Friday in the British media and The Australian that they will deny she aimed any expletive at the constable. Instead, Kerr, who is of Indian descent, is believed to be claiming she used the term “stupid white cop”.

The accusations against her have sparked plenty of discussion in Australia, with Education Minister Jason Clare one of the latest to weigh in.

“I think I’m uniquely qualified to answer this question, as someone who is often called a ‘stupid white bastard’ – I’m not offended by it,” he told Seven’s Sunrise on Friday.

“The whole country is too wrapped around the axle … I suspect this will get sorted out before it ends up in court.”

Western Australian Premier Roger Cook added his backing for the Perth-born footballer on Thursday, saying the state “stand(s) by and support(s) Sam”.

In NSW, Premier Chris Minns said he didn’t consider Kerr’s alleged slur to be racist, while his Health Minister, Ryan Park, said he had “been called a lot worse”.

– with AAP

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