All too often in the aftermath of alleged incidents of racism, we see clubs and leagues put out an obligatory statement and then try to move on from the matter as swiftly as possible.
But, following the latest blight on the game, Hartlepool United deserve credit for the way they responded to the unsavoury scenes we saw during their National League game with Dover Athletic when striker Inih Effiong was subject to racist abuse and gestures from spectators in the Pools end.
His team-mate Ricky Modeste was also caught up in the incident, while Pools midfielder Gus Mafuta was clearly upset by what he heard as he told the supporter to get out of the ground.
An arrest has been made by Cleveland Police and we hope a heavy sanction is handed out should the person be found guilty. They have no place in our football grounds and we all have a responsibility to unite and drive them away.
Both Dover and the National League made their feelings clear in statements released after the game. Dover also pointed out that blame should not be shifted on to the victim. Effiong celebrated his goal in front of the fans – but that doesn’t give irate people a pass to racial abuse.
Pools reacted well too. With their own players unhappy with what played out, chairman Raj Singh visited their homes on Sunday to talk through what happened.
Then, their game against Chesterfield last Tuesday night was used to send out a message. The front of their programme and banners carried logos with ‘Love Pools Hate Racism’. The club also carried an interview with Mafuta, where he was able to put across how he felt that afternoon when he saw supporters of the club he represents abusing a fellow footballer for the colour of his skin.
It would have been easy to shy away from it but Pools rightly gave him a platform.
Effiong told The NLP: “You hear it and see it out of their mouths. Understand, the fans looked so angry. I’m thinking, ‘How can I make you that angry that you want to give me racial abuse?’ It wasn’t on and quite upsetting. Even their players were devastated by it.
“We considered walking off. Our gaffer asked if we wanted to, their gaffer said they would support us if we wanted to. But we just said, ‘No, let’s get on with the game’.”
Both Effiong and Mafuta feel it is vital to keep up the conversation. It is important their voices are heard.
Action needs to be firm and strong to eradicate this scar on society and football.
Non-League Day has been one of the great success stories of Non-League football since its inception by James Doe.
A simple idea, but a really good one that encourages fans to get down to their local club during an international break each season.
It’s a day that puts Non-League football up in lights for those who may not normally consider it. It shows people there are good games often only ten minutes away or so from their front doors.
Clubs have run promotional offers for entry, organised special events at the ground, leagues have arranged groundhops and one club even had ferret racing one year!
It’s a great opportunity to take along a debutant - we’re sure they will love it too.