THE alleged racial abuse of a player at a Fermanagh and Western football match in Tyrone, that led to his team walking off the pitch minutes before the end, will be discussed at a meeting of the league’s governing body this Thursday.
The F&W Division Three match between Mourne Celtic and St Patrick’s, played at Mitchell Park in Castlederg, had to be abandoned.
Mourne Celtic manager, Chris Cunningham, ordered his team off the park after claiming a player had been subjected to racial abuse on two occasions.
Mr Cunningham said, “The player who was affected, it took me two-and-a-half months to persuade him to sign for us and then to be treated like this… To be honest, the player was very close to tears. He took it really bad.”
The manager said he took the players off to prevent any potential trouble from flaring up.
“I protect my players at all times. I feel very strongly about that,” he said.
Explaining what led to his decision, he said, “Something was said at one moment when my player was walking away and he let it go. He didn’t bite the first time, but the second time it enraged him and the thing got out of hand.”
Mr Cunningham said that he felt that taking off the players was the right thing to do.
“The player had been racially abused and I felt this could descend into trouble on the pitch,” he added.
“There had been a few scuffles but I felt there could have been someone badly hurt, tensions were high and I told the referee that we were not continuing.”
It is understood that the referee did not hear the alleged abuse directed at the player.
A St Patrick’s FC official, who was not at the game confirmed he ‘had heard something’ about what went on but wasn’t in a place to comment.
He went on to say, however, that the club would come back to the media with a comment but no contact was made.
St Patrick’s have had a player already banned this season for ten games after an alleged use of sectarian language.
F&W chairman, Neil Jardine, has confirmed they had received the referee’s report and a report of the alleged incident from Mourne Celtic.
Mr Jardine said that the league’s management committee had invited both clubs to their next meeting on Thursday (November 7) with the referee’s report and a report of alleged racist abuse set to be discussed.
Mr Jardine also confirmed that in his memory this would be the first time a racist abuse issue would be dealt with.
“We have had a couple of incidents surrounding the use of sectarian language in recent weeks and that’s disappointing,” he confirmed.
“In the past it hasn’t been something that has come up that often but we have always dealt with it head on. We will do the same on this occasion,” the chairman added.
Nick Cassidy, manager of Omagh Ethnic Communities Support Group, said that any reports of racial abuse occurring locally were “concerning”.
Mr Cassidy said it was very difficult to make a comment as the incident was still investigated, but added, “One time is one time too many. Our policy would be zero tolerance for any such behaviour.”