Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling calls on Hartlepool United fans to 'stand together against racism'
TV presenter Jeff Stelling is calling on Hartlepool United fans to “stand together against racism” as he attends Tuesday night’s game at Victoria Park.
The Sky Sports anchorman and Hartlepool United honorary president Tweeted he was heading to the Chesterfield game, calling it: “A chance for everyone to show the nation that our club and fans stand together against racism.”
His comments come after Saturday’s Pools v Dover Athletic game. The visitors won 2-0, but football wasn’t the main talking point afterwards following alleged racism directed at Dover’s Inih Effiong who scored a controversial penalty.
Cleveland Police confirmed on Monday that a 43-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of a racially-aggravated public order offence during the game. He has been released under investigation, while inquiries continue.
A 60-year-old man was reported for summons after he allegedly encroached the pitch during the game.
United manager Craig Hignett and his opposite number at Athletic, Andy Hessenthaler, said they discussed taking the players off the pitch after the incident. Pools’ midfielder Gus Mafuta was also allegedly abused by a small minority.
Both sets of players were clearly distressed as play stopped for around 10 minutes, and there were doubts over whether it would continue.
Stelling had earlier labelled the perpetrators as “scum”.
He Tweeted: “I would not blame any of our black players if they did not want to play for the club again. I genuinely hope they realise they are loved by our fans. The scum who have disgraced us will never ever be allowed back”.
Tonight’s match programme bears the headline: “Love Pools. Hate racism” and prominently displays the logo of the anti-racism organisation Kick It Out.
The club’s chief executive, Mark Maguire, said in a club statement: “Hartlepool United utterly condemn racist behaviour of any description.
“We are a proudly inclusive as a club, and we know that the vast majority of Pools fans will join us in standing up against words and actions which have no place in football or society.”
Another HUFC statement has since added: “Following events at the weekend, the club will continue to focus on action rather than words and will make substantive statements once we have completed discussions with the police and handed over all appropriate evidence.
“We have spoken with the squad and liaised with anti-racism charities to assist us in taking the appropriate action to support the players and raise awareness.
“For Tuesday night’s game we are asking all Poolies to get behind us in taking a stand against racism and will be issuing special cards to be held up declaring ‘Love Pools, Hate Racism’.”
Stelling and the club are only part of the chorus of condemnation of Saturday’s events.
Hartlepool MP Mike Hill told the Mail: “I am bitterly disappointed by the news that during the Hartlepool vs Dover game there were very clear incidents of racial abuse and subsequent arrests.
“This in no way is a reflection on the majority of Pools fans, who will be appalled about such behaviour and will never condone racism in any shape or form.
“Hartlepool United is a proud, family orientated inclusive club. So the fact that such abuse was enough for both team managers to consider voluntarily stopping the game speaks volumes about the influence the small, but very noisy, majority of racist thugs are having on the game.
“I honestly thought such behaviour was consigned to the past. It clearly isn’t the case and the club and the police were right to tackle this head on.”
Dover Athletic FC and the Hartlepool United Supporters Trust are also among others to condemn Saturday’s events.