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Matildas coach and Football Australia respond to Sam Kerr’s police incident

Russell Gould and Duncan EvansNCA NewsWire
Football Australia CEO James Johnson t Richard Walker
Camera IconFootball Australia CEO James Johnson t Richard Walker Credit: News Corp Australia

Football Australia boss James Johnson says superstar Matildas captain Sam Kerr “has rights” and there will be no moves on her leadership after shock revelations she had been charged by UK police for allegedly racially harassing a police officer last January.

Both Johnson and Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson were unaware of the charge against Kerr until reports emerged early on Tuesday morning, more than a year after the incident first occurred.

Kerr is set to face trial in England next January accused of the racially aggravated harassment of a police officer in an alleged altercation over a taxi fare, after pleading not guilty in a London court where she appeared via video link on Monday.

Despite the incident occurring in January 2023, Johnson said he was in the dark and was careful not to make any assumptions given they were “serious allegations” while maintaining “there is no place for racism in our sport”.

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“We’re trying to get to the bottom of it at the moment. We have our own questions we would like to know. We have got to find out what actually happened,” Johnson said in Adelaide, having woken up to the shock news.

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“There is a process that is underway…and that process needs to run its course.

“I don’t want to get into any allegations. We have to understand what happened. They are serious allegations. It regards racism and there is no place for racism in our sport. At the same time Sam has rights, natural justice rights, procedural rights that she has to work her way through and we respect that.”

Matildas
Camera IconFootball Australia CEO James Johnson t Richard Walker Credit: News Corp Australia

“We woke up to this morning. I was getting on the flight to Adelaide when I found out. So we have to establish the facts, get some answers before we have a view on what should be done as a next step.”

Johnson, who is yet to speak to Kerr, said he wouldn’t be asking for Kerr, who celebrated the 30th birthday of Matildas teammate Mackenzie Arnold just hours after her court appearance, to stand down as captain.

Kerr is currently recovering from an ACL injury, won’t be part of the Matildas Olympic campaign and may not play again anywhere until the end of the year as she recovers from the surgery.

“We need to allow the process to play out. I think that’s important,” he said.

“Sam has rights as an individual. She has pleaded not guilty. I think we need to remember that and we need to respect that.”

“I haven’t spoken to Sam other than a text message just to check in on her well being at the moment because she is an employee of ours and also a player.”

Kerr, who plays for Chelsea in London, appeared in court in the UK on Monday accused of using insulting, threatening or abusive words that caused alarm or distress to PC Lovell during an incident in Twickenham on January 30, 2023.

She appeared at Kingston Crown Court via videolink, spoke only to confirm her identity and to enter a not guilty plea to the charge, which was later confirmed by the Metropolitan Police.

“Samantha Kerr, 30 (10.09.93) of Richmond was charged via postal charge requisition on 21 January with a racially aggravated offence under Section 4A Public Order Act 1986,” the police charge sheet stated.

“The charge relates to an incident involving a police officer who was responding to a complaint involving a taxi fare on 30 January 2023 in Twickenham.”

Kerr’s counsel denied her behaviour was racially “aggravated” and Chelsea has also not yet stood her down.

Gustavsson said revelations of Kerr’s UK court appearance won’t distract his team from its Olympics goals as he vowed to support her “as a human being”.

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

“I was informed this morning and obviously was surprised and had some time to talk to the Federation about it and as you know the Federation have come up with a statement and because it’s a legal process, I need to refer to that statement and unfortunately I can’t come in more than that.

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

“I got to know it this morning and she’s asleep. So I haven’t spoken to her yet.”

Gustavsson said he would support Kerr and that he’s only ever had positive experiences with her during their time working together.

“I can’t comment on the offence because there’s a legal matter at this point. The only thing I can comment is my experience and interaction with Sam as a person and as a footballer, and I have only positive experience with that,” he said.

“I think (the Federation) was very clear on that as well in terms of supporting our players on and off the field with the respect and the sensitivity that it is and I understand why there’s a lot of questions about it, but of course I will as a human being offer her support.”

The veteran manager didn’t want to get drawn in on how this might affect selection down the track, with the Matildas now preparing for two farewell games in Adelaide and Sydney against China before they fly out for the Olympics.

The drama overseas has the potential to overshadow their preparations, but Gustavsson isn’t worried about that having seen how his players dealt with adversity during last year’s home World Cup, which included Kerr suffering a calf injury on the eve of the tournament.

“I think if you look at them and the attention that this team have gotten over the last little bit, I think the team itself knows the core values of who they are on and off the field. They know what they stand for,” he said.

“But also as a football team, they know what they stand for on the field. And I think that’s shown in the past that when there’s been things around them that could potentially disturb the team.

“I think they have been very good at focusing on their why and what they stand for and how they want to play football. And so in that sense, I think the team is going to be very professional this time around as well.”

Originally published as Matildas coach and Football Australia respond to Sam Kerr’s police incident

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