RAJ SINGH, the club’s owner and chairman, has vowed to do all he can to stamp down hard on racism at Hartlepool United. 

Three days after their home game with Dover was marred by a first-half incident when the visitors reacted to racist taunts from home fans in the Town End, Pools last night were back in action against Chesterfield.
A 43-year-old man has arrested on suspicion of a racially-aggravated public order offence, while a 60-year-old man was reported for summons after allegedly making his way on to the pitch during the game which will certainly have repercussions for the club.
Before last night’s flat 1-1 draw, the club handed out placards for fans to display with the slogan “Love Pools Hate Racism”. The game passed by incident free.

The FA has written to both Pools and Dover asking for their observations into events ahead of their official enquiry.

But, writing the club programme for last night’s game, Singh, said: “Let me make it extremely clear from the outset, any form of racism is totally unacceptable in this day and age, it’s notsomething anyone at the club condones and the culprits will be dealt with severely.

“As an Asian going to school in Middlesbrough, growing up in the 1970s and 80s and going to many away games following Boro, I feel I am well-qualified to make comment on the subject.
“I can speak about racism at first-hand and could write a book on all the incidents and altercations I have had over the years.’’
The Indian businessman, who was in charge of Darlington for almost three years and saved Pools from administration last March, watched last night’s game from the director’s box alongside Jeff Stelling, the club president.

He continued of Saturday’s events: “At half-time Mark Maguire [chief executive] decided, with my agreement, that we should make an announcement to the crowd before the start of the second half to condemn the behaviour of that small minority of spectators.

“I think that the announcement was greatly received by both sets of players and supporters who applauded warmly, and I would like to thank them for that response.

"You could argue that it the only plus side to the day in showing how far we’ve come in football that the vast majority of fans backed our stance and agreed with our decision to call out those who had been discriminatory.’’

Referee Joseph Johnson suffered the ire of many inside Victoria Park, as his standard of refereeing was called into question. 

He sent Pools boss Craig Hignett – who has since been charged on two counts of misconduct by the FA and has until tomorrow to respond – from the dug out, while also handing out red cards to captain Ryan Donaldson and midfielder Nicky Featherstone for foul language. The pair will also miss Saturday’s game at Eastleigh.

Singh added: “I think we can all agree that the match itself became secondary in nature.

“For what it’s worth, I have my own take on what unfolded on Saturday. I know some people will have their own thoughts and they may disagree with me but it’s all about opinions.

“Firstly, I have to say that in 40 to 45 years of watching football that game has to be right up there with the worst in terms of how much the referee had lost control of the overall situation.

“Moving on to the decision where things began to take a turn for the worst, I felt the penalty was a 50-50 call but the referee has to judge that and we all have to accept and respect him on that front.

“However, what went on in the aftermath of the penalty being scored was as unbelievable as it was unacceptable.

“In my view, when the Dover played scored the goal he should have gone and celebrated with his teammates and should not have chosen to taunt opposition fans. Secondly, as soon as he started to do that the referee should have been across like a shot to tell the players to move away or threaten them with bookings. Instead, the situation was allowed to escalate and astonishingly the taunting was repeated.

“Let me say it again, I am not and will not for one minute try to defend the actions of the few idiots responsible for any racist abuse, two wrongs most definitely do not make a right. However, I am simply saying that players have a job and a responsibility to behave in a certain manner.’’

He added: “I think that the referee had made up his mind during half-time that we were not going to get anything from the game. That proved to be the case when we had three good penalty claims turned down and there were three red cards.’’

Dover issued a statement on Sunday which read: “This is not the first time that our players and staff have had to contend with racial abuse during a National League fixture.’’

In January, attacker Ricky Modeste tweeted that a racist incident took place during a win at Wrexham and Police later launched an investigation.’’

Singh added: “I’ve never seen a referee lose control of a game as much as he did on Saturday. Even at the end, right in front of where I was sitting, the Dover players were walking into the tunnel and taunting our fans as they were going off.

“I would question whether there was any need for that and also ask where their coaching staff and Manager were to ensure the players acted in a responsible manner to avoid making an already volatile situation worse.

“We will continue to condemn racism in all its forms here at Hartlepool United and would ask all supporters to work with us moving forward so that we endure no repeat of what happened here on Saturday. It has no place in the game we all love.’’

Pools’ midfielder Gus Mafuta also spoke out in the matchday programme and he praised both Singh and Maguire for their understanding of the situation.

He said: “I think the reaction from the club has been good and we have the full support of the club which I am thankful for.

“I have spoken to the Chairman already and he’s told me that is going to do everything in his power to catch the people responsible and ensure they are given the maximum punishment. It needs to be tackled though because this can’t keep happening.

“It’s hard because if a so-called racist comes into the ground you’re not going to know immediately that he’s a racist. Something has to be done though, and I think the punishments need to be more severe because right now I don’t think they’re enough.’’