Hartlepool chief executive Mark Maguire has condemned alleged racist behaviour witnessed at Victoria Park on Saturday and insists the individuals involved “will be dealt with in the strongest possible manner”.
Dover players celebrated in front of the home fans after striker Inih Effiong’s 37th-minute penalty set them on their way to a 2-0 National League victory.
An exchange followed which led to an 11-minute delay in the match, during which players – including Gus Mafuta of Hartlepool – are understood to have received racist abuse from the stands.
Pools were later reduced to nine men, with Ryan Donaldson and Nicky Featherstone sent off, while boss Craig Hignett was sent to the stand.
Maguire said in a club statement: “I can honestly say that I have never witnessed a game of football like that, but it is important that we separate our reaction to the game, and the officials, to the events following Dover’s first goal.
“Whatever the rights and wrongs of the decision, or the aftermath to the penalty which was scored, Hartlepool United utterly condemn racist behaviour of any description.
“We are proudly inclusive as a club, and we know that the vast majority of Pools fans will join us in standing up against words and actions which have no place in football or society.
“As I understand it, in this, the early stages after the event, individuals have been identified and will be dealt with in the strongest possible manner by both the club and police.
“Equally, I personally spoke to the people on the receiving end of the abuse, assuring them that we would take the necessary action.
“We also made a public announcement at half-time, setting out our condemnation of such behaviour, whilst I also spoke with the chairman of Dover to offer my apology.
“As a club we will protect the principles held by the vast majority of our fanbase who would be insulted by their reputation being tarnished in this manner.”
Dover boss Andy Hessenthaler said he was ready to take his players off the pitch and added that Hartlepool counterpart Hignett agreed that they might need to come off.
“It’s a sad day for football,” Hessenthaler told the Northern Echo after the game. “At half-time we were calm. I spoke to Craig and at one stage I wanted to come off the pitch – and Craig agreed with me.
“He was saying the same, we backed each other up, but the players wanted to carry on and credit to them…They wanted to carry on.
“We spoke and their players wanted to carry on too. I didn’t like what was going on. I felt it in my stomach.
“I said, ‘Look, if you want come off, let’s come off’, but they wanted to carry on – although we were winning 1-0 at the time.”
Hignett said: “We are a very inclusive club and we deal with it if we have to. I asked Gus if he was OK and he assured me he was and that was that really.
“I said to Andy, ‘If that’s what you feel then I’m behind you’ and he wanted to get on with the game.
“This club isn’t like that. We are an inclusive club. We have black players. We have a black owner. We are a good family club and if anyone has darkened our club they will be dealt with.”
Hartlepool defender Peter Kioso posted on Instagram after the match: “I’m angry and disappointed with how the small majority of fans have acted today.
“No player should be on the receiving end of racism. All I can do is apologise to the Dover players for this disgraceful act.
“In this day and age we as black players shouldn’t be dealing with this type of thing on a football pitch or anywhere in the world.”