A Burnley supporter has been charged with a racially aggravated offence after allegedly aiming abuse at Brighton & Hove Albion’s Gaëtan Bong last Saturday.
The CPS brought the charge after Sussex police arrested two men during Burnley’s 3-1 victory at Brighton in the Premier League.
Sussex police said: “Club stewards responded to reports of racist abuse received by away supporters in the away end during the game. Two individuals were identified and ejected from the stadium, and arrested by Sussex Police officers.
“Nathan Higgins, 18, a student, of Talbot Drive, Burnley, Lancashire, has been charged with using threatening or abusive words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress, and using racially aggravated threatening or abusive words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
“Stewart Higgins, 53, an engineer, [also] of Talbot Drive, Burnley, Lancashire, has been charged with using threatening or abusive words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
“Both defendants were released on unconditional bail and are due to appear before Brighton magistrates court on 14 March.”
Burnley said in a statement: ““We welcome the actions taken by some of our own supporters in reporting such matters, which reflect the club’s own policy in dealing with alleged racist behaviour.
“As a club, Burnley FC will not accept any form of abusive or discriminatory behaviour and will actively pursue a zero-tolerance policy at all matches. We also support action taken by the relevant authorities to combat such behaviour and identify and punish any offenders and continue to work closely with all agencies and other clubs to tackle anti-social and discriminatory behaviour.”
Bong has been targeted by Burnley fans since accusing West Bromwich Albion’s Jay Rodriguez of racially abusing him during a Premier League game last year, leading to an FA charge for the striker. The FA declared the charge to be “not proven” against Rodriguez, who began his career at Burnley.
Bong’s allegation angered a section of Burnley’s fanbase and the defender was booed during Brighton’s 0-0 draw at Turf Moor last April. Chris Hughton, Brighton’s manager, called the booing shameful after that match and the FA condemned the abuse, but the ill feeling has not gone away. Bong was also targeted by West Brom fans during Brighton’s FA Cup victory at the Hawthorns last week.
Racial abuse has blighted English football this season. In December a Chelsea fan was accused of aiming racial abuse at Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling at Stamford Bridge, which he denied, and a Tottenham fan was banned after throwing a banana skin at Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the Emirates Stadium.
The Football Association is also investigating reports of racist chanting from Millwall fans during the FA Cup win over Everton last month and West Ham have handed evidence to the Metropolitan Police after investigating apparent Islamophobic abuse of Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah by one of their fans at the London Stadium last week.