- Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2015

LONDON (AP) - The English Football Association has damaged its credibility and insulted victims of discrimination by failing to punish former Cardiff manager Malky Mackay over a dossier of offensive text-message exchanges with a colleague, the game’s anti-racism organization said Thursday.

Mackay and former Cardiff recruitment chief Iain Moody were cleared because the phone messages were sent with a “legitimate expectation of privacy,” the FA ruled after an 11-month investigation.

“The Football Association has damaged its own credibility and anti-discrimination policies … how can anybody truly challenge discrimination and prejudiced attitudes in football with confidence now?” Kick It Out said in a statement.

The FA did say it had spoken to Mackay and Moody about the inappropriate nature of the language used while vowing to “introduce a policy on private conduct.”

But Kick It Out, which receives some funding from the FA, pointed out that Mackay and Moody were messaging each other on work phones.

“Mackay and Moody admitted their involvement and this is clearly an abrogation of responsibility on the part of the FA,” Kick It Out added. “The review currently being undertaken by the FA of its unwritten policy on dealing with ‘private communication’ is lamentably late in the day. It is Kick It Out’s view that the FA needed to take a strong position to help prove football’s ‘zero-tolerance’ approach towards discriminatory practices.

“Instead, we have another example of the status quo being reinforced, and discriminatory practices being allowed to flourish in ‘no-go’ areas such as within the exclusivity of boardrooms, training grounds and dressing rooms, and via private communication networks.”

The messages were sent between June 2011 and March 2014. After they were revealed in a newspaper, Mackay last year accepted he used “unacceptable” language while insisting: “I’m no racist, no sexist, no homophobe.”

The League Managers Association provoked outrage last year by dismissing the exchanges as “friendly text-message banter” and said Mackay was just “letting off steam to a friend.”

Kick It Out said the failure to punish the comments “considered as ‘banter’ … is entirely damaging.”

“It is an insult to those affected by discrimination and offers the prospect of further victimization if they are to take a stand and confront it,” the organization added. “Too many people capable of discriminating operate in private, and they are acutely aware of what will land them in trouble if they act this way in the presence of others.”

Eniola Aluko, who played for England in the recent Women’s World Cup, tweeted: “Basically if you’re a football coach/manager/leader and racist in private it’s ok… Dreadful precedent.”

England has made huge strides in largely eradicating the racial abuse of black players that blighted the game in the country in the 1970s and ‘80s.

But Kick It Out said the Mackay-Moody case “symbolized a serious challenge to the leadership of football and sadly the FA has missed a key opportunity to send out a message to individuals who use private communications to express such unacceptable views.”

Mackay, who was dismissed by Cardiff in December 2013, has since been hired and fired by Wigan. The FA said Mackay has voluntarily undertaken equality and diversity training.

“The English game remains determined to eliminate discriminatory conduct in all its forms and will look to introduce a policy on private conduct that underpins the collective commitment of stakeholders to make this happen,” the FA said.

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Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris

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