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Racism charge doesn’t stack up

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

While the Football Supporters’ Federation only officially represents fans in England and Wales we do keep an eye out for what our fellow fans are up to across Europe and beyond. This doesn’t just involve hours on football forums and blogs either! We’re active members of Football Supporters Europe too.

Since we’re such engaged citizens it’s not uncommon to hear from overseas fans after a little advice.

And so it was when supporters of Northern Ireland’s Ballymena United got in touch to tell us they were accused of racism by a match referee and official following a game against Dungannon Swifts on Saturday, August 16th, 2009. The club was fined £1,250 by the Irish FA (IFA) so that should be that, right?

Well, not in the case of Ballymena United’s fans where it seems there’s been a definite miscarriage of justice.

The alleged racism consisted of fans chanting “you black bas***d” throughout the game at the opposition keeper Alvin Rouse. If this was the case it would have been totally unacceptable and there could have been no cause for complaint.

But the IFA’s case just didn’t stack up. On this Youtube clip fans can clearly be heard chanting “you fat bas***d” for a start, which clearly isn’t racist.

This in itself doesn’t definitively prove that no racism took place, of course. But when you also consider that United’s fans have in the past been very vocal in tackling racism among their own support, there’s no reason to suspect those very same supporters would now be complicit in it.

“The group of fans which the allegations have been aimed at are basically the same group of people who a few years ago displayed an anti-racism banner when two ‘fans’ – who are no longer welcome – chanted racist comments during a game,” explains United fan Paul Irwin. “We are incredibly angry that we have now been labelled racist by the IFA and would like to get the message out that we don’t tolerate racism.”

Ballymena United’s board has also come out in support of fans whose evidence, submitted to the IFA’s Appeals Board, was deemed invalid as it was not “considered to be from a non-independent source”. Which sounds suspiciously like being tried without the right to a defence.

Let’s be straight, there is absolutely zero tolerance for racism within the FSF, it is a fundamental principle of membership set out in our constitution after all.

Accusations of racism are some of the most serious that can be thrown around. Not only do false allegations damage the very real fight against racism but mud can stick and reputations forever tarnished.

So if the authorities are going to make these allegations they better damn well be certain. Denying supporters a platform to tell their side of the story doesn’t endear the IFA to us either.

In court you’ve the absolute right to defend yourself so how come the IFA think they can act as judge, jury, and executioner?

Fans deserve better.

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