RACIST abuse hurled at black players during a football match is now part of a formal criminal investigation, police have confirmed.

Ugly scenes marred the National League game between Hartlepool United and Dover Athletic at Victoria Park on Saturday.

It followed a celebration by the visitors in front of home fans after striker Inih Effiong’s 37th-minute penalty and led to an eight-minute delay in the game.

Dover’s players are understood to have received racist abuse from the stands which led to the Hartlepool players getting involved to defend the opposition before they became embroiled in a row with their own support.

A spokesman for Cleveland Police 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.”


As the second half restarted, the club made a statement over the PA system condemning racism.

One supporter left the Neale Cooper Stand terrace to get onto the pitch during the second half to try and get at the Liverpool-based official before he was turned away by players of both sides.

A Hartlepool United Supporters’ Trust, statement read: “HUST stand with Hartlepool United, its players and the vast majority of our football fans in condemning the disgusting incident of racism that occurred during the match this weekend and our thoughts are with the players affected by these unacceptable scenes.

“We support the club’s management condemning the actions so quickly and that they intend to take strong action against those involved.

“Racism has no place in football or our society and we offer any support the club may need to help stamp out such behaviour in future.”

Pools lost the game 2-0 and ended with nine men, with Ryan Donaldson and Nicky Featherstone sent off, and their manager, Craig Hignett, sent to the stand.

Mr Hignett and Dover boss Andy Hessenthaler both said they were prepared to take their teams off the pitch after the racist incident but the players themselves wanted to carry on.

The club’s chief executive Mark Maguire has condemned the allegations of racism said individuals involved “will be dealt with in the strongest possible manner”.

He said: “Hartlepool United utterly condemn racist behaviour of any description. We are proudly inclusive as a club.”