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Two pre-season friendlies marred by serious incidents with investigations launched

Two pre-season friendlies from Saturday afternoon have unfortunately been marred by serious incidents with investigations launched.

An alleged racist remark was made during Torquay United’s 1-0 victory over Exeter City in a pre-season friendly at Plainmoor on Saturday. The incident happened just after the hour mark when play was halted for a few minutes.

Referee Paul Johnson had a talk with Corie Andrews of the Gulls and Jonathan Grounds of the Grecians before then coming over and explaining to managers Gary Johnson and Matt Taylor what the delay was about.

The game then resumed shortly after, with Brett McGavin scoring the winner in the 82nd minute to seal a 1-0 for the hosts.

After the match, Taylor explained that the pause in the action was due to an alleged racist remark from one of the Grecians players having been heard by one of the Torquay United players.

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Exeter boss said that there will be an investigation but that based on what his player has told him about the incident, he didn’t believe any racist comments had been made.

“The referee has reported a racist comment,” Taylor said post-match when explaining the pause in play. “I have spoken to the player in question so I know what he has said and I don’t believe it to be a racist comment.

“It will go into an investigation through the right pathways in relation to that. I trust my players and the player in question in relation to what he has been suggested to have said today and what he actually has said.

“In terms of the Torquay player, he has got to go through the right pathway in relation to that. I was pleased with the way the referee actually conducted himself at that moment. We were all a bit confused as no-one knew what had actually happened and it seems the right protocol has been kept to today.”

The match was halted for several minutes midway through the first-half after an incident appearing to involve a person sitting in the the West Stand (home end) and three Bantams substitutes who were warming-up on the touchline.

The Spireites said in a statement: “After being made aware of the alleged comment, stewards and police officers spoke to the fan in question, who denied the accusation and left voluntarily.

“Witness statements have been taken as part of an investigation and, if necessary, appropriate action will be taken.

“Our club and community trust does a lot of work around anti-racism and racist comments at our stadium will not be tolerated.”

Meanwhile, a similar incident happened in Chesterfield’s 3-0 win against Bradford, with City manager Mark Hughes saying they would be contacting the Football Association over the matter.

Abuse was shouted by a home supporter towards Bradford subs Lee Angol and Yann Songo’o who had been warming up with Andy Cook by the corner of the pitch in front of him.

The culprit was eventually escorted from his seat by stewards – and there were cheers among others in the Chesterfield crowd as he left.

Hughes said: “I wouldn’t call the guy a supporter if I’m honest. What the players were saying he said was an absolute disgrace.

“You can’t have that whether it’s a pre-season game or a kickabout on a school field. You’ve got to get rid of any kind of racism and questioning people’s skin colour is just unacceptable.

“It’s too prevalent and when we do see an example of it, we’ve got to jump on it quickly.

“We’ve put in a full report with the referee and the FA will get involved. It was the right thing to do.

“Chesterfield were absolutely supporting us in terms of getting the game stopped. The lad needed to be ejected and hopefully further issues will come his way.”

Hughes complained to referee Danny Middleton while the game was stopped for several minutes as Chesterfield dealt with the supporter involved.

“It was some idiot and I’ve no idea what he was thinking,” added the City boss.

“The fans highlighted who it was and moved away from him. They should be applauded for that.

“They don’t want people like that in their football club and in their stand.”

Asked about how his players were feeling, Hughes said: “They’ve probably experienced it on too many occasions.

“Sometimes you can turn a blind eye to it although it’s really difficult for the guys but on this occasion it was too blatant to ignore.

“They made us aware and hopefully we can make a small indent into what is a huge problem.”

Neither Songo’o nor Angol reacted at the time to what was being said other than bringing to the attention of the City coaching staff. Mark Trueman went down the touchline to talk to the stewards while Hughes was in conversation with the officials

Bantams striker Vadaine Oliver added: “In this day and age, we should be past this.

“It’s not Chesterfield as a club or the fanbase. You get idiots in every group and it’s sad to see.”

Everyone regardless of their background should be able to enjoy matches and competitions in a safe and welcoming environment. Instilling confidence in reporting discrimination allows us to tackle discrimination and eliminate it from todays game.   

When discriminatory behaviour takes place, those who witness it – or are the victim of it – need to be able to report it quickly, and to the right people. The reporting process needs to be easy and confidential. Plus, those who make reports must be confident that their concerns or experiences will be heard and, where necessary, dealt with promptly and appropriately.

What is discriminatory behaviour?

Discriminatory abuse includes a reference to any one or more of the following ‘protected characteristics’, covered by the Equality Act, 2010:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion and belief
  • Sex (gender)
  • Sexual orientation

If you see or hear discrimination at a club, whether it be on the pitch, at the training ground or in the stands, please use the Kick It Out app to report it or alternatively some clubs operate a text service, which can be used to directly communicate with the match day staff at the club. Tell a steward. Words can hurt.

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