Hartlepool United would like to make the following statement regarding the recent FA Hearing.
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.
In making this statement we want to pay tribute to the way Dover players Inih Effiong and Ricky Modeste conducted themselves during the recent FA hearing. They displayed dignity, honesty and integrity; we apologised to them in person on behalf of those responsible and we do so again now.
Our response to what happened at Victoria Park has been to work closely with Kick It Out on various ongoing measures and their advice and assistance has been outstanding. We have improved how we approach matters in preparation for matches and certainly learned lessons.
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.
We hope the FA will engage with Kick It Out and member clubs to create an action plan across football, and indeed to make sure that the lessons learned and actions introduced from this and other cases are communicated to all stakeholders. This would go some way to addressing a problem in society which is manifesting itself in football grounds.
We have recently shared our experiences with colleagues from National League clubs at the Club Meeting alongside Kick It Out, in the hope that we can create some momentum behind a number of actions which will see the National League lead the way in addressing this issue.
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.