Sheffield United have terminated the contract of Sophie Jones by mutual agreement after the forward was banned for five matches for racially abusing Tottenham defender Renee Hector.
Hector alleged she “received some monkey noises from an opposition player” during a Women’s Championship game at the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Stadium in January, leading to Jones being charged by the Football Association.
Jones denied the claim and the Blades said in a statement she “maintains her innocence”, but an independent regulatory commission said the charge was “found proven”.
The FA said in a statement: “Sophie Jones has been given a five-match suspension with immediate effect after an ‘Aggravated Breach’ of FA Rule E3(1) was found proven by an Independent Regulatory Commission.
“The Sheffield United FC Women’s player denied a charge of using abusive and/or insulting words – that included reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race – towards an opponent during an FA Women’s Championship fixture against Tottenham Hotspur Ladies on 06 January 2019.
“The forward was also fined £200 and ordered to attend an FA education course.”
Sheffield United immediately announced the departure of Jones from the club following the FA’s ruling.
The club said: “Jones maintains her innocence and is disappointed with the FA’s decision.
“The club works closely with the EFL, the FA and Kick it Out and would like to reiterate that it does not condone racism or any form of discrimination.
“Following dialogue between the club and Jones, and taking into account the length of the suspension, it has been decided that her contract, which was due for review in the summer, will be terminated by mutual agreement.”
Hector said in her tweet after the game, which Tottenham won 2-1: “Such a shame that racism seems to be rising up again in football – I received some monkey noises today from an opposition player.
“The only reaction was to let the football do the talking and that we did great start to the year! @ThlfcOfficial #COYSL #SHEvTOT #KickItOut.”
Tottenham later that day said on Twitter that Hector had reported the alleged incident to the referee during the game, while the club raised the matter with the FA.
Following the FA’s announcement, Hector wrote on Twitter: “There is no place for racism in our game. A zero tolerance policy is imperative in stamping this out from football therefore I welcome this verdict.
“No one should be subjected to racist abuse on or off the pitch and I felt a responsibility to call it out for what it was.
“I want to now concentrate on the last five games of the FAWC and trying to secure promotion with Spurs. Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout this process.”
Anti-discrimination campaigners Kick It Out welcomed the FA’s decision.
A statement read: “Verdicts like this underline the importance of calling out discrimination wherever it is heard – in the women’s or men’s game and at any level.
“We stand with Renee Hector and her team-mates and hope others who may face a similar situation will be empowered to follow their lead.”