Potential consequences for Hartlepool United following National League statement and Football Association investigation into alleged racist abuse

The National League have issued a statement following on from the events that took place at Victoria Park on Saturday with the Football Association now involved.

Monday, 23rd September 2019, 14:16 pm
Trouble breaks out between the Dover Athletic players and Hartlepool United fans after an alleged racist incident during the Vanarama National League match between Hartlepool United and Dover Athletic at Victoria Park, Hartlepool on Saturday 21st September 2019. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

The statement read: “The National League utterly condemns racial abuse directed at players.

“Following the reports of supporters directing racial abuse at players at a match between Hartlepool United and Dover Athletic this weekend, the National League wishes to voice its utter condemnation of the behaviour of the alleged perpetrators.

“The League understands that a disciplinary process will be commenced by The Football Association and that investigations are being conducted by Cleveland Police.

Both managers discussed abandoning the match. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

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“For its own part, The National League will remind its member clubs of the protocol for dealing with abuse aimed at players, managers or match officials and consult with industry stakeholders to assess the need for further preventative action.”

With the FA now conducting the disciplinary process, there could be a range of consequences for Hartlepool United that could potentially have on and off field implications.

The individuals responsible will be banned for life and potentially punished further pending the aforementioned police investigation.

On Saturday evening, United released an official club statement.

“Hartlepool United utterly condemn racist behaviour of any description,” said chief executive Mark Maguire.

“As a Club we will protect the principles held by the vast majority of our fan base who would be insulted by their reputation being tarnished in this manner.

“In these type of circumstances actions speak louder than words and we will be judged accordingly.”

No punishment has been confirmed as of yet but there will almost certainly be significant repercussions for the club not only in reputation but financially and possibly competitively as well.

Fines

The FA will likely find Pools in breach of rule E20 with the club allegedly “failing to ensure that spectators conducted themselves in an orderly fashion and refrained from using abusive and/or insulting words, which included a reference to race and/or ethnic origin.”

If the club are found guilty that will warrant a hefty fine.

Hartlepool also saw Ryan Donaldson, Nicky Featherstone and Craig Hignett shown red cards during the match for incidents unrelated to the events that happened in the aftermath to Dover’s opening goal.

As all three red cards were for dissent, the club could be charged a fine for failing to control their players. However several things will be taken into account contextually before any fine would be imposed.

As all three dismissals were for separate incidents any potential fine could be dismissed particularly when considering the distressing context of the game along with the performance of the referee whose report will also be a factor.

The disciplinary handbook refers to a ‘significant fine’ should Pools be found guilty of failing to control their players.

Players refusing to play?

The players couldn’t be blamed if some of them had reservations about playing for the club again after what they had to experience on Saturday.

Gus Mafuta came under particular scutiny both during the game and on social media afterwards. The 24-year-old midfielder was inaccurately painted as some sort of aggressor in the situation by a report in The Sun, who later apologised.

Obviously Mafuta was going to react emotionally to what was a very serious incident so to shift any blame onto him or any player is completely lamentable.

The former Salford man took his shirt off as he left the field on Saturday. Something as innocuous as removing an item of clothing wouldn’t have received any sort of reaction had Pools won the game with no incidents taking place.

But just because an alleged racially charged attack occurred which Mafuta obviously took objection to, people chose to pick up on his shirt removal – why?

With Chesterfield on Tuesday night and team selection impacted by red cards, Pools could line-up quite differently to how they did on Saturday.

The home crowd will be keen to do what they can to try and make some small form of amends for what happened.

The players will be aware that the vast majority of Poolies are fully behind them and will support each and every player in a Hartlepool shirt regardless of race or creed.

And one silver lining to the situation was the laudable unity and togetherness shown by the Pools (and Dover) players both during and after the match.

That unity is expected to be on show once again at The Vic against Chesterfield.

Playing behind closed doors?

No club side in England has been forced to play a home match behind closed doors following a racist attack but earlier this year Montenegro were punished by UEFA for a similar incident in a Euro 2020 qualifier against England.

The decision was supported by the FA who felt the punishment sent out a necessary message.

Last month Serbian side Partizan Belgrade were also punished in the same way.

While it is unlikely to happen against Chesterfield given the quick turnaround in matches, the FA may choose to implement a similar sort of punishment which impacts fans but not necessarily the players.

Points deduction?

Again, no professional team in English football has ever been subject to a points deduction for such an incident. Any punishment of this sort would be an unprecedented and significant statement made by the FA.

But it would be unfair to punish the players further given what they have already had to experience because of a few select individuals so a points deduction is believed to be an unlikely outcome.