January 2 – An English Championship game was briefly halted on Wednesday as discrimination at football fixtures, which marred much of 2019, occurred again just two days into the new year.
This time it was sectarian abuse aimed at Irish winger James McClean during the Huddersfield-Stoke fixture, with an announcement being made that the match would be abandoned if the abuse did not stop.
Stoke’s McClean reportedly refused in November to wear a poppy on Remembrance Day – honouring those who lost their lives in both world wars and various conflicts after he cited the 1972 ‘Bloody Sunday’ massacre when British soldiers killed unarmed protesters in his hometown of Derry.
The 30-year-old was the target of a familiar sectarian chant aimed at the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and complained to the referee, who stopped the game in line with anti-discrimination protocol.
An announcement was made warning fans that “offensive behaviour is affecting the game and will not be tolerated” and McClean applauded the move, after which no further abuse was heard.
“James has been encouraged to report abuse he receives of a sectarian nature to the match official,” Stoke manager Michael O’Neill told reporters. “He did it on Boxing Day when he was subjected to it by Sheffield Wednesday fans and he felt the need to do it today. He’s 100% right to do so… People have to be held accountable for their behaviour when they come to a football stadium.”
“James is a player who is targeted with this because of his background, and obviously I know his background extremely well, but I think he’s 100% right to do what he did and report it to the referee.”
Huddersfield manager Danny Cowley condemned the offensive chants and said the club would take action against the guilty parties.
“There’s no place for discrimination of any type whatsoever,” he said. “The club will investigate and ensure the people involved will be duly punished.”
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