The former borough councillor who chairs Croydon Athletic says no further action will be taken by the club against their player accused of racist abuse. Exclusive by ANDREW SINCLAIR
Croydon Athletic will be taking no further action against the player – as yet unidentified – who was accused of making racist abuse against a player from the opposing side which led to a 21-man scuffle and the whole Fisher squad storming off the Mayfield Road pitch two weeks ago, forcing the Southern Counties East League Premier Division game to be abandoned.
Racist abuse, both in the stands and on the pitch, has been a pervasive theme in the English game this season, all the way through to the Premier League. Few matches have had to be called off as a consequence of alleged abuse, though, but that is what happened at the non-league ground in Thornton Heath on December 28, when Croydon Athletic were playing relegation rivals, Fisher.
As first reported by Inside Croydon, with Croydon Athletic leading 3-1 and Fisher having had a player sent-off in the first-half, the game came to a controversial and abrupt end on the hour mark when one of the Athletic players was accused of making a racist remark.
According to Paul Smith, the former borough councillor who is chairman of Croydon Athletic, the player accused of the abuse is himself black.
Neither the SCEFL nor the FA has yet ruled whether the game will need to be replayed.
But last night, Rams chairman Paul Smith told Inside Croydon that after the club’s own investigation, “we do not intend to take any action at all”.
Smith said, “The matter is being investigated by the London FA and we have already provided a number of statements, but we do expect to hear from them in the next day or so.
“I can confirm that we have investigated the matter internally and we do not intend to take any action at all. The player concerned has cooperated fully both with the club and the London FA. The player concerned, who is black himself, enjoys the full confidence and support of the squad and the club.
“We will not make any further comment until the matter has been resolved by the London FA.”
Smith’s statement will only reinforce the conviction of the handful of Rams fans who witnessed the incident, and who suggested that the Fisher walk-off was a pre-determined ruse to try to get something out of a game which by half-time the Bermondsey club looked certain to lose.
Croydon Athletic play at Welling this afternoon. They go into the fixture 14th in the 20-team SCEFL Premier Division, with games in hand – including the Fisher fixture, if it has to be re-staged.
Kevin Rayner’s side are moving away from the relegation battle after back-to-back league wins, including beating Erith and Belvedere 4-2 last week in their first game of 2020.
Goals from Nahum Green, Joe Nwoko and Emmanuel Oleyede gave the Rams a 3-1 lead at the break and Nwoko grabbed a second, his sixth of the season. Today’s match is the first of five games in 14 days.
One of those games is an unexpected one, as the Rams were given a reprieve in the SCEFL Challenge Cup. They were beaten in the last 32 by Elmstead but the Division One club were found to have fielded an ineligible player, leading to them being thrown out of the competition and Athletic being reinstated.
They’ve not got an easy assignment though as they host one of the Premier Division’s form sides, Chatham Town, who broke the division attendance record just before the New Year when over more than watched their game with Sheppey United.
Croydon FC kept up their charge for an immediate return to the SCEFL Premier Division going with two league wins in the first division in December.
Goals from Andy Somo and Tundi Owolabi secured the Trams a 2-1 win over Lydd Town in their Christmas away day, before they then secured an impressive win by the same scoreline against Forest Hill Park the following weekend to cap off their Christmas Fun Day at Croydon Arena.
Their game at fellow promotion-contenders Holmesdale was called off on December 28 – not because the pitch was waterlogged but because there was a lot of stagnant water surrounding the floodlights, causing “health and safety” to be the cause of the postponement.
Liam Giles’ side returned to action last Saturday at home to Stansfeld, one of the league’s other form teams, when their hard work was undone by some poor defensive organisation and a refereeing display that Giles called one of the worst he’s seen at that level.
The key moment came just before the half-hour mark. Stansfeld’s scorer, Jake Britnell, put in a terrible challenge on Croydon midfielder Richard White, who reacted to what could have been a leg-breaker. After a delay that made VAR look more like a Japanese Bullet Train, the referee booked White and fellow Trams player Josh Owen and awarded the Trams a free-kick. Britnell was not booked.
White received a second yellow card five minutes later, leaving the Trams a man light for the remaining hour of the game. When quizzed by Giles at half-time over the incident, the referee apologised and said that he had not sent off the Stansfeld player off because he “didn’t see which one it was” that made the tackle.
The away side seemed to go down rather easily from any challenges in the second half, making it difficult for either side to get any rhythm and preventing the game from being a particularly entertaining contest.
The impressive Ryan Hassan doubled Stansfeld’s lead on 64 minutes with a lovely curled strike and while Croydon pressed hard in the final 20 minutes to get something from the game, they were restricted to a few half chances from corners and a late consolation goal from the industrious Owen.
While a tough defeat to take, the Trams will need to rally as they face another two sides chasing promotion before the end of the month in the shape of Rusthall, today, and Thamesmead.
Giles’ men also have the chance to move into the Hospitals Charity Cup semi-finals on January 22 when they host the Phoenix Sports Reserves at the Arena.
Whyteleafe kept their promotion charge in the Isthmian South East Division going through December with a couple of key wins and they were in the play-off places as we moved into the new year.
Through December, Harry Hudson’s men beat Sittingbourne and Haywards Heath and recorded draws against Faversham, Sevenoaks and Guernsey, with the latter fixture played in front of more than 1,000 people.
The Leafe slipped to a 1-0 home defeat against league leaders Hastings United in their first game of the year last week.
Today: SCEFL Premier v Welling Town (A)
Tue Jan 14: SCEFL Challenge Cup v Chatham Town (H)
Sat Jan 18: SCEFL Premier v Greenwich Borough (H)
Tue Jan 21: Surrey Senior Cup v Guildford City (H)
Sat Jan 25: SCEFL Premier v Chatham Town (A)
Today: Isthmian SE Div v VCD Athletic (A)
Tue Jan 14: Isthmian SE Div v Cray Valley PM (A)
Sat Jan 18: Isthmian SE Div v Whitehawk (H)
Sat Jan 25: Isthmian SE Div v Sittingbourne (A)
Tue Jan 28: Isthmian SE Div v Whitehawk (A)
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