EAST STIRLINGSHIRE chairman Tony Ford has placed himself on a potential collision course with the Scottish Professional Football League by ordering his players to walk off the pitch if they encounter any further instances of racist abuse.
Jordan Tapping the League Two club’s 17-year-old defender, left the pitch in tears when he was substituted 15 minutes from the end of their match against Peterhead at Balmoor Stadium last Saturday.
Police subsequently arrested Peterhead supporter Donnie Fraser, who was convicted of shouting a racially offensive comment at Tapping which was likely to incite public disorder. Fraser was fined £300 and given a one-year football banning order.
The SPFL has launched its own inquiry into the incident which will consider referee Gavin Duncan’s match report, whether Peterhead took sufficient action to prevent abuse taking place and their immediate reaction to it. Peterhead issued an immediate apology and emphasised their established anti-racism policy.
While Ford was gratified by both Peterhead’s response and the swift action of the police, he has revealed his intention for the East Stirlingshire players to take matters into their own hands in the event of any further racist abuse. “I have told our captain Chris Townsley that if there is ever another incident like that he is to tell the referee that he is taking our players off the park regardless of where and who we are playing,” said Ford.
“That approach may seem drastic to some people and leave us open to criticism by footballing authorities but that is the approach we shall follow.”
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster was unavailable for comment last night but it is understood the league would take a dim view of any unilateral action by East Stirlingshire players.
While sympathetic towards Ford’s understandable dismay at last weekend’s incident, the SPFL believes racism is an issue football should tackle collectively. In keeping with other football authorities, its policy is that no player should leave the field of play without the permission of the match referee.
Uefa president Michel Platini has previously insisted players should be booked if they take it upon themselves to walk off the pitch in response to racist abuse, as threatened by Italian striker Mario Balotelli prior to the 2012 European Championship finals in Poland and Ukraine.
Last year, AC Milan player Kevin-Prince Boateng prompted a friendly against lower division club Pro Patria to be suspended midway through the first half when he responded to racist chants by picking up the ball, kicking it into the crowd, removing his shirt and walking off the pitch.
He was followed by both sets of players.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter initially criticised Boateng, insisting that walking off the pitch was “not a solution” to racism, although he later praised the Ghanaian international for being “strong and courageous” when his comments attracted condemnation from anti-racism campaigners.