Cleveland Police are investigating an incident at Hartlepool during which players were allegedly racially abused.
The first half of Pools’ 2-0 National League defeat by Dover at Victoria Park was delayed by 11 minutes as a result of an exchange between players – including the home team’s Gus Mafuta – and spectators after Inih Effiong had opened the scoring with a 37th-minute penalty.
A police spokesman said: “Cleveland Police is investigating these allegations.
“The force works with football clubs around the country, as well as the wider community, to reinforce that this kind of behaviour is completely unacceptable. If it does occur, we take robust action using all available tools, including football banning orders.”
Dover boss Andy Hessenthaler revealed after the game that he was ready to take his team off the pitch and that opposite number Craig Hignett was in agreement, although both sets of players wanted to carry on.
Hignett later told Pools TV: “That’s got no place here, we certainly don’t condone it.
“Racism not only has no part in football, but it has no part in life, so if that’s the case, then those people must be dealt with and dealt with severely because that’s not us as a football club.
“We are a very inclusive club, but if there are mindless individuals, then they will be dealt with in the strongest possible terms.”
Hignett was sent to the stands during a game which also saw Pools lose Ryan Donaldson and Nicky Featherstone to red cards, but chief executive Mark Maguire insisted frustration at events on the pitch was no excuse for the reaction off it.
Maguire, who revealed he had spoken to the victims of the abuse and assured them that the strongest possible action would be taken against the perpetrators, said: “I can honestly say that I have never witnessed a game of football like that but it is important that we separate our reaction to the game, and the officials, to the events following Dover’s first goal.
“Whatever the rights and wrongs of the decision or the aftermath to the penalty which was scored, Hartlepool United utterly condemn racist behaviour of any description.
“We are proudly inclusive as a club and we know that the vast majority of Pools fans will join us in standing up against words and actions which have no place in football or society.”
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