Published: 11:56, 31 January 2020
| Updated: 13:54, 31 January 2020
The Football Association has fined Hartlepool United a four-figure sum after their fans racially abused Dover Athletic players earlier this season.
The punishment was decided by an independent regulatory commission, after the club admitted being guilty of breaking FA rule E20, which means they "failed to ensure its spectators… refrained from using abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour which included a reference… to race and/or colour".
Details have been published by the FA after the hearing in London earlier this month.
The FA warned Hartlepool as to its future conduct and fined them £7,500, with £5,000 of that figure suspended until the end of the 2020/21 season.
They also have a detailed action plan to put in place in a bid to prevent further incidents.
The commission heard there was an eight-minute delay to the game after Dover forward Inih Effiong celebrated scoring a penalty in front of the Town End Terrace, where home fans were housed in the game in September 2019.
Effiong held a finger to his lips in a 'shush' gesture and a burger was thrown from a supporter on the Town End Terrace which struck the Dover player.
After celebrating with his team-mates, Effiong cupped a hand to his ear, a gesture directed at Hartlepool supporters on the Town End Terrace.
What followed was that three supporters used racial abuse and gestures towards Dover players.
The commission found the words "you black ****" and/or "**** off you black ****" were used towards players by individuals on the Town End Terrace.
Monkey gestures were made in the direction of Dover players and monkey noises were also made.
They found that three Hartlepool supporters or followers used such language and made such gestures towards the Dover players, and such noises were made by a small number – no more than a handful – of Hartlepool supporters and followers.
The commission’s report also noted that Hartlepool failed to provide CCTV footage from the incident.
They stated "for reasons we still do not fully understand the club chose not to share the CCTV footage – which evidently shows more of the incident than the video footage – with the FA or with us. We found that extremely regrettable".
The commission were also "extremely surprised" Hartlepool had taken no action against either of the two individuals identified who it had "concluded had used the relevant language and gesture".
The report says they had "not taken steps to ban either of them from club" or "taken any steps since the match either to actively prevent them from attending matches or to monitor whether they were attempting to attend matches".
It was also noted the only steward said to have heard racist language did not appear to have "even been interviewed or spoken to about the incident” by Hartlepool.
They also said that only one individual left the stadium immediately after the incident, when he was identified by a player.
Only one further individual was identified on the day (from the CCTV footage) as having used abusive or insulting language.
The commission also found the message to condemn misconduct by supporters in a tannoy announcement at the start of the second half was not "front and centre" in the wording and instead "took second place behind an expression of pride by the club in its supporters".
Effiong's actions were likely to have antagonised Hartlepool supporters (and were rightly punished by a yellow card), according to the commission, but they cannot be said to "explain, excuse or begin to justify the behaviour of the club’s supporters or followers that then followed".
The commission said Hartlepool deserve credit for making "substantial efforts to ensure that no recurrence ever takes place".
They said that club was "entitled for full credit for taking the steps it has, for which it has rightly received praise from both Kick it Out and others".
It was decided to suspend the majority of Hartlepool’s fine because of the "substantial and real efforts that the club had made since the incident".
More by this authorMatthew Panting
This website and its associated newspaper are members of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO)