Hartlepool United hit with four figure fine by Football Association following racist abuse incident against Dover Athletic

Hartlepool United have been fined £7,500 by the Football Association following the racist abuse incident against Dover Athletic at Victoria Park earlier this season.

Sunday, 2nd February 2020, 3:28 pm
Kenton Richardson of Hartlepool United in action with Inih Effiong of Dover Athletic.

In October, Pools were charged by the FA for being in breach of rule E20, failing to ensure its spectators refrained from using abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour which included a reference to race and/or colour.

The punishment was decided by an independent regulatory commission earlier this month with Hartlepool being charged £7,500 – £5,000 of which is suspended until the end of the 2020-21 campaign.

Director Ian Scobbie represented Pools at the hearing on January 9 with the FA’s report detailing the incident that took place and the resulting charges.

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The incident took place following a Dover penalty which was awarded in front of the Town End at Victoria Park.

The FA’s report, which can be read in full by searching Hartlepool United here, read: “The penalty was taken by Inih Effiong (‘IE’). IE scored the penalty, giving DAFC a 1-0 lead. Immediately after he had done so, IE wheeled away to the left of the goal.

“IE faced the Club’s spectators on the Town End Terrace and held a finger to his lips in ‘shush’ gesture, and a burger was thrown from a supporter on the Town End Terrace and struck IE.

“At the corner flag a number of DAFC players met IE to celebrate the goal. That celebration lasted several seconds. As the celebratory huddle broke up, IE cupped a hand to his ear. That gesture was again directed at the Club’s supporters on the Town End Terrace.

“It is common ground that there then followed incidents of racial abuse by individuals on the Town End Terrace that were directed at certain DAFC players.

“At least one of the Club’s supporters standing on the Town End Terrace used the words ‘black ****’ and that those words were directed at a DAFC player.

“At least one of the Club’s supporters standing on the Town End Terrace made monkey gestures, again directed at a DAFC player.

“Those incidents caused a number of the DAFC players to confront spectators across the advertising hoardings at the foot of the Town End Terrace. A number of the Club’s stewards (and certain Club players) intervened in order to keep the DAFC players and Club supporters apart.

“However, further incidents of racist abuse then occurred, which prompted a number of players (from DAFC and the Club) to re-approach the Town End Terrace, where stewards (and other players) once again intervened."

In November, Hartlepool requested clarification over the specifics of the charge with chief executive Mark Maguire questioning the referee’s ‘extraordinary incident report’.

The FA responded that the charges relate primarily to the events following Effiong’s converted penalty following the 37th-minute which saw play suspended for approximately eight minutes.

The commission concluded Hartlepool had not taken all reasonable steps to effectively deal with the incident when it arose however credited Pools for their efforts to ensure no recurrence ever takes place.

Due to the efforts the club made to address the incident, the decision was made to suspend £5,000 of Hartlepool’s fine.

A Pools statement read: "During what was a very difficult process, we have maintained that two people were guilty of racist abuse. The FA found that there were definitely two but found us guilty on the basis that “on the balance of probability there was possibly a third”. We have maintained throughout that one is too many.

"As such, we have been found guilty of Charge E20 and fined £7,500. £5,000 of which was suspended as a result of our actions subsequently and, in addition, an action plan largely devised by ourselves with the help of Kick it Out must be followed over the next eighteen months. We have shared this action plan with fellow National League Clubs.

"Throughout the process we have been consistent in our stance that on Saturday 21st September 2019, two individuals in the Hartlepool end of Victoria Park were guilty of directing vile abuse towards Dover players. The abuse was specific and racist in nature, and has no place in football or society.

"All our action subsequently – and that of our fans – has demonstrated the true attitude of Hartlepool towards racism, one of unanimous condemnation. We have come together to show that all connected with Hartlepool United abhor racism and discrimination of any kind."

Pools, who paid tribute to Inih Effiong and Ricky Modeste for the way they conducted themselves during the hearing, added the club has worked closely with Kick it Out.

The statement added: "In the words of the panel at the hearing, our response was 'exemplary'.

"With the benefit of hindsight we would, of course, have taken some of the measures we have since introduced. It is clear that no club can afford to sit in comfort believing they have no issue because we must unify across the game to stamp out discrimination wherever it exists."

Pools hope the FA would engage with Kick It Out and member clubs to create a nationwide action plan.

The statement added: "We are grateful for the support of Cleveland Police who have kept us informed as to the progress of their investigations throughout and assisted us in identifying the two culprits.

"During their investigations they requested that we did not take any action which would prejudice a legal case; however, since the conclusion of the case we have recently written to two individuals issuing bans from Victoria Park."