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Haringey Borough manager says racist abuse by Yeovil fans was latest in long line and feels FA has not responded adequately in past

Tom Morgan
Haringey Borough's Coby Rowe is restrained by staff after racist abuse allegedly directed at one of his team-mates from travelling Yeovil supporters - Pinnacle

The Haringey Borough manager who hauled his team off the pitch after racist abuse during an FA Cup qualifier says the incident is the latest in a long line of attacks against his black players.

Tom Loizou says he is "not holding my breath" for a robust response from authorities after his goalkeeper was pelted by stones, bottles and allegedly called a "black c---" by Yeovil Town fans.

On Sunday the Football Association said it was "deeply concerned" about the abuse and promised it was working "as a matter of urgency, to fully establish the facts and take the appropriate steps".

However, Loizou said he had previously come to the conclusion "we weren't a high profile enough club to have anything done about it" after other allegations were raised. "We've had loads of incidents here over the years," the manager told The Telegraph, including one against his goalkeeper four years ago. "Everyone's got to follow protocol, say the right thing, be political."

Loizou said his players were visibly distraught after the episode on Saturday. As well as the team's black players facing abuse, he claims women working on the club's burger bar were left crying after lewd insults. After the team's dramatic walk off, Kick It Out, which recorded 442 cases of discriminatory abuse including homophobia, anti-semitism and Islamophobia last season, praised Loizou's “decisive action”, comparing the response to England's defiant stance against the racists in Bulgaria.

The charity says it passes on every report to relevant authorities. "We have no power to investigate or issue punishments," the charity said. "That responsibility lies with football's authorities and, in some instances, the police."

Valery Pajetat points in the direction of Yeovil Town's travelling fans, one of whom, he says, racially abused him Credit: James Fearn/PPAUK

On the day that the Premier League and EFL launched high-profile anti-racism campaigns, the Isthmian League Premier Division side walked off the field in the 64th minute after Yeovil fans aimed most of their abuse at goalkeeper Valery Douglas Pajetat.

The goalkeeper told The Telegraph his ordeal made him feel "really, really sad". "I was not something more or something less," he said. "My objective is not to criticise Yeovil Town because the players had a good reaction and supported me. I feel really really sad and disappointed that the efforts the players make, that these fans come and did what they did. I don't think the team manager and players deserved that."

Pajetat's team-mate Coby Rowe also faced slurs in the build-up to a Yeovil penalty, which Rhys Murphy converted. Rowe had to be restrained by security as Haringey's players left the Coles Park pitch, while Yeovil's captain went over to speak to his team's fans, as did the referee. With Yeovil leading 1-0 in the fourth-round qualifier, Haringey took the decision while in the dressing room not to return to the pitch because players feared for their safety.

Yeovil's West Country neighbours Bristol City also faced allegations of racism by fans against Luton on Saturday. The incidents come after both Greg Clarke, the FA chairman, and Townsend said the English game must not be complacent about tackling its own problems amid the furore following the Bulgaria Euro 2020 qualifier.

Loizou, who has since said he is not bothered about getting the FA Cup match replayed, says he sympathises with players in the professional game because Uefa's three-step protocol is a "bit of a joke". "I did it for my players, no other reason," Loizou said, explaining why he asked to stop the game. "Whether the FA wants to throw us out for walking off the pitch I really don't care. We're not playing baseball and it's three hits and you're out. Unfortunately professional players are governed this rule, but what can they do to me? The protocol is a bit of a joke and I have every bit of sympathy with the players and Gareth Southgate."

Loizou said some of his players "were shaking". "We're a small football club, we haven't got big budgets. I have to find players in the lower leagues, Sunday leagues and develop them. Some of them I've had for seven years. When I saw the look on their faces it was the easiest decision to take them off. All Valery has got is the Yeovil fans throwing stones at his head. Spitting at him, chanting at him and then throwing bottles. All the players were at the other end. The goalkeeper done so well not to react. I saw it all."

He said the Yeovil players and staff had reacted in an exemplary fashion, but branded some of the fans "animals". "When the person standing next to him sees him and hears it, why are they not doing anything about it? Why is he allowing it to happen? I spent all week with volunteers segregating the ground, putting pebbles down so they could walk without mud on their shoes. Shopping for hot dogs, burgers, to feed these animals and they're telling my voluntary people, 'Stick that hotdog between your legs, darling.' The girls were in tears."

Police are investigating the reports of racist comments and items thrown on to the pitch. No arrests have been made. Yeovil, meanwhile, said they would be "cooperating with the authorities and our friends at Haringey Borough regarding events leading up to today's fixture not being completed".

Meanwhile, Bristol City condemned reports of racist chanting and a fan being punched during the club's 3-0 defeat at Luton. "We are a family club which celebrates its diversity and inclusivity and will take action against anyone behaving in a racist manner at a Bristol City match who has purchased their ticket or season card through the club as well as reporting them to the relevant authorities," the club said.