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Racist charges brought against youth football team

YOUTHS: Nirvana Football Club

THE LEICESTERSHIRE and Rutland County Football Association (FA) has charged a youth football team with failing to control their supporters who allegedly racially abused an opposing team.

Parents and coaches of players from the Leicester-based Nirvana Football Club (NFC) told The Voice their Under-15 team was allegedly racially abused by opposition players from Blaby and Whetstone FC as well as the opposing parents during a match in October 21.

After lodging a formal complaint, the county FA has now charged Blaby and Whetstone FC with failing to control its fans and for the supporters' alleged racist abuse of opposing players.

A player from Blaby and Whetstone FC has also been charged of making racist comments on social network website Twitter.

The referee of the match has also been charged with failing to report disciplinary issues from the fixture.

Witnesses watching the match have claimed that monkey chants and gestures were directed at NFC players, with allegations made that words such as "n*gger" and "monkey" were used against the 14 and 15-year-olds during and after the match.

The local football authority has charged two players from NFC for comments, not of a racial nature, made on social media sites - a decision that drew criticism from parent Corinne Melbourne, whose son plays for NFC.

"Two of our players are being charged with misconduct for what was said on Facebook, but that was after they had been racially abused on Facebook from the Blaby players. It points out they [county FA] don’t get what racism is," she said.

EXCLUSIVE: The Voice broke the news about the alleged abuse of Nirvana FC first

"I’m unsatisfied that there are charges on our young people when they were the victims of a racist crime, that’s what I’m unhappy about. That’s my whole point, the [county] FA still do not understand that racism is a crime – they think racism is the same as name calling.

“They [county FA] always have to get us for something, that’s part of the problem. And it’s been going on for 30 years. I don’t have all that much faith [in these charges]," Melbourne added.

The Society of Black Lawyer's chair, Peter Herbert, also took issue with the judgement. "We welcome the decision to charge those responsible at Whetstone and Blaby," he said, "however we do have serious concerns about the decision to target the victims of this abuse.

“We do not know the details of the allegations about comments on Facebook, we would be extremely surprised if comments on Facebook are appropriate evidence to rely upon when addressing the proportionality of charging victims of racial harassment."

Herbert, a vocal critic of the national FA which he recently called "institutionally racist", said more understanding should be shown to those who suffer racist abuse.

“The equivalent would be if you’re suffering extreme racial abuse and you respond by telling the person to f-off; you would not expect to be charged for causing harassment alarm or distress, it’s an element of self-defence, but it’s also an element of free-speech.

“If you suffer from racial abuse then there is an element of leeway victims should be given in relation to their response, particularly if their addressing matters on social networking sites, which are the medium of young people expressing their anger and frustration.

“It’s not a question of being even-handed, it’s a question of being fair and recognising the restraint that the young people exhibited in the face of huge provocation [whilst on the pitch],” Herbert added.

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