ANTI-discrimination body Kick It Out have called for any Hartlepool United fans who choose to ‘black up’ for the final away game at Carlisle to be refused entry.
Hundreds of Pools fans are set to descend on Carlisle next Saturday, May 2, dressed in reggae/Bob Marley-themed fancy dress to celebrate the end of the season.
It has become an annual tradition for Pools supporters to don fancy dress for the last away day of the campaign and previous years have featured Thunderbirds, Smurfs and even Oompa Lumpas.
But Kick It Out say they have been contacted by some concerned Pools supporters over the potential of fans deciding to ‘black up’ following this year’s theme.
The theme is always decided by a group of fans and not the Sky Bet League Two club itself.
A statement from Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion organisation, reads: “We have received a number of complaints from Hartlepool United supporters about the Bob Marley fancy dress theme planned by a group of the club’s fans for their fixture against Carlisle United at Brunton Park on Saturday 2 May.
“The main concerns raised have been over the potential of fans deciding to ‘black up’.
“We have subsequently followed up on the complaints by contacting both Hartlepool United and Carlisle United on the matter.
“We clearly outlined that ‘blacking up’ has historically been a way of acting out racist stereotypes, and while the theme planned by fans may be well intended and chosen as part of an annual fancy dress tradition, such behaviour, if it occurs, is likely to cause offence.
“We have provided guidance to both clubs on the matter, and advised Carlisle United of our own stance that if any fans do choose to ‘black up’ they should be refused entry to their stadium.
“We have also contacted The Football Association, the Football League, and the United Kingdom Football Policing Unit to inform them of the complaints we have received from Hartlepool United supporters.
“If we do receive complaints informing us that supporters have ‘blacked up’ at the fixture between Carlisle United and Hartlepool United, or that any incidents or disturbances of a discriminatory nature have occurred, we will follow our usual procedures by making The Football Association and the Football League aware for them to investigate.”
Carlisle manager Keith Curle was asked if he would be offended by this at a club press conference.
“My first thought is no,” he said.
“I’ve been to fancy dress parties when white people have dressed up as Bob Marley. I haven’t been offended,” he told the News & Star.
Kick It Out works to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices and campaign for positive change.
The Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football campaign was established in 1993 in response to widespread calls from clubs, players and fans to tackle racist attitudes within the game.