The county football association has confirmed it is investigating an alleged incident of homophobic abuse, which saw a team leave in protest.
Saturday’s match at Brasenose College Sports Ground, between Union Street FC and Donnington FC in the Oxford City Football League, was marred when Union Street players walked off the pitch following accusations of homophobic abuse from Donnington’s side.
Union Street player Alex Pratchett wore a rainbow headband when it’s alleged he was called a ‘f*****g poof’.
An Oxfordshire FA spokesperson said it was continuing an investigation.
Union Street made the decision to leave the pitch today against Donnington FC.
As a club and group of individuals, we do not tolerate homophobic abuse in any form. @OxfordshireFA
— Union Street FC 💚🦡 (@UnionStreetFC) February 5, 2022
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Joel Atkin, who was Union Street’s captain for the game, said: “A lot of tackles were going on which put our players at risk.
“One of our players came out after taking an elbow to the back of the head, and there were a lot of cleated tackles.
“Football is a contact sport and we accept injuries on the football pitch.
“I had substituted myself and given the captain’s armband to Alex, so I was standing at the side of the pitch when Alex said someone told him ‘why don’t you fucking take that off? poof’ about her rainbow headband.
“We don’t tolerate swearing, but Alex insulted the referee and received a red card for reporting the abuse.
“That’s when the team left.
“Our values are love, peace and freedom, and we support the Rainbow Shoelaces campaign – we cannot allow abuse of this nature to pass.
“I have never heard of such abuse and naively thought it would never happen.”
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Aiden Canaday, Union Street club secretary, added: “It was a very strange day, the game was quite aggressive with two-footed challenges and elbows coming in.
“In the second half I spoke to the referee and said the players were scared and I tried to talk to the opposing players.
“Alex was wearing a rainbow headband, and one of the players said ‘why don’t you fucking take that off.
“He led the players – as a group, many of us wear rainbow shoelaces in support of the LGBTQ community.
“We played at this level for a long time but we didn’t experience anything like it.
“We had a lot of support on Twitter, which is very humbling.”
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In a statement, the Oxfordshire FA outlined the process for investigating the allegations.
A spokesperson said: “Oxfordshire FA became aware over the weekend of a local adult game where a team walked off the pitch following alleged language of a homophobic nature.
“To begin the investigation, we contacted the alleged victims’ club for information.
“Our role now is to continue the investigation and gather the evidence before considering any appropriate charges.
“The evidence and proposed charge is shared with Wembley Football Association, who then take over the hearing process.
“Any hearing like this will be reviewed by a national panel of three people trained from across the country.
“The result is then reported to the clubs and the minutes of the hearing are published on the Oxfordshire website.
“The Oxfordshire FA does not tolerate discriminatory language or behaviour, particularly in a football environment, and will continue to take action against proven offenders, whether it is a club and/or a several individuals.
“Until the final outcome of this incident, we are not initiating further communication as we are now focusing our attention on the investigation.”
Donnington FC have been approached for comment.
In a thread of tweets responding to Union Street, Jerome McCalmon, believed to be captain of Donnington, said: “As captain of Donnington FC, in response to allegations of homophobic comments or comments being made against us, we strongly deny the claimed to comment.
“We would also like to say that we do not accept any discrimination of any kind.
As captain of Donnington FC, in response to allegations of homophobic comments or comments made against us, we strongly deny the alleged comment. We would also like to say that we do not accept any discrimination of any kind. We also want to highlight the player in 1/2
— JEROME McCALMON (@JeromeMccalmon) February 7, 2022
“We would also like to point out that the player in question was sent off for foul and abusive language, and not for complaining about an alleged homophobic comment as claimed.
“We find these allegations hurtful and would like to remind you that under the law, we are innocent until proven guilty.
“We had an 8-1 lead at the time with 15 minutes left, which could explain the reaction of the player in question after being sent off for making these outrageous, outrageous and hurtful allegations.
“We will not comment further on the matter and would like to move on.”
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