Croydon Athletic, the sometime controversial non-league football club, is today at the centre of a racism row after an opposing team walked off the pitch on Saturday making claims that one of their players had been abused.
The South East Counties League Premier Division match between Croydon Athletic and Fisher at the council-owned Mayfield Road ground was abandoned after about an hour had been played on Saturday, following a 21-player brawl near the touchline.
Croydon Athletic were leading 3-1 at the time, with Fisher down to 10 men because of a first-half sending-off – which is probably the only reason it was not a 22-man brawl.
The Fisher players trooped off en masse, claiming that one of their players had been subjected to racist abuse from a member of the Croydon Athletic team.
Spectators at the game, and some Croydon Athletic players, say that no such abuse occurred, and they have suggested that Fisher orchestrated the incident when facing a heavy defeat.
The SCEFL told Inside Croydon that they would not be taking any disciplinary action, saying that the incident is a matter for the FA. Denise Richmond, the chair of the Tier 8 division, said, “The league is waiting to receive the referee’s report before deciding on what action to take.”
In a statement issued on behalf of the league this morning, they added, “We would like to say that there is no place for racism in football in any way, shape or form.”
The Bermondsey-based club remains adamant that there was a racist remark made to one of their players, and they are apparently prepared to forfeit the fixture to support their players’ walk-out.
Fisher said today, “… a member of the opposing team made a racially abusive comment towards the Fisher team. As a result of this comment, which was immediately brought to the match officials attention, the players and management team were united in taking a stand by leaving the field of play…
“The players, management team and club are all in agreement that there was no option but to leave the field of play and the result of the match is unimportant in light of the abuse.”
Paul Smith, the chair of Croydon Athletic, failed to return calls to Inside Croydon over the weekend to explain the incident. Smith is a former Croydon councillor and is known to be a long-time friend of Tony Newman, the leader of Croydon Council, the football club’s landlords. Newman even claims to support AFC Croydon Athletic.
The club has issued a statement which acknowledges the allegation of a racist remark, and suggests that the club is aware of which of their players is alleged to have made it. The player, the club says, denies making the remark.
The Croydon Athletic statement says: “Yesterday’s game at home to Fisher was abandoned by the referee after about an hour of play after the Fisher team refused to continue the game. It is alleged that a racist remark was heard on the field of play. The matter will, quite rightly, be fully investigated and the club will participate fully in any investigation.
“As is often the case in matters such as this there is much inaccurate and unhelpful speculation on social media but for clarity the incident did not involve any spectators of either side but occurred on the pitch.
“AFC Croydon Athletic joins with all of football in condemning any discriminatory behaviour or language and have the highest expectations of its officials, management, players and spectators. As a club that has always provided opportunities to players to participate based on their ability to play without regard for any other consideration and that will continue to be the case. We celebrate the diversity of our teams, being reflective of the community within which we are located.
“The accused player, who had previously scored in the game, firmly denies the allegation.
“The club has confidence in any investigation to consider objectively the incident and to reach an appropriate conclusion. The investigation should also consider whether the allegation was based on a reasonable belief and, if not, what action should result as a consequence.”
Croydon Athletic is the phoenix team which was established following the collapse of the club of a similar name, when its owner and chairman Mazhar Majeed was exposed as the man behind the 2011 betting fix during the Lord’s Test match which led to him and three Pakistan cricketers serving jail terms.
With Majeed no longer funding Croydon Athletic’s playing squad, which had risen to the dizzying heights of the Isthmian Premier Division, its players quit, fixtures went unfulfilled, and it was left to a group of supporters to rebuild the club from scratch – something which has not always gone smoothly, such as when the clubhouse at Mayfield Road burned down.
Croydon Athletic sit just above the relegation zone, 17th in the 20-team SECFL, with their next home game this Saturday, against Erith and Belvedere.
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