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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

English football club charged over alleged sectarian chants aimed at Catholic player

An English Football League (EFL) Championship club has been charged by the Football Association (FA) in connection with allegations of sectarian abuse aimed at high-profile Irish Catholic midfielder James McClean.

The charge against Barnsley relates to chants heard during their Sky Bet Championship clash against Stoke City at Oakwell on 9th November, which the Potters won 4-2, in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday.

An FA statement said: ‘Barnsley FC has been charged with a breach of FA Rule E20.

‘It is alleged that the club failed to ensure its spectators, and all persons purporting to be its supporters or followers, conducted themselves in an orderly fashion and refrained from using abusive and/or insulting words which included a reference, whether express or implied, to nationality and/or religion and/or beliefs, while attending an EFL Championship fixture against Stoke City FC on Saturday 9th November 2019.

‘Barnsley FC has until Friday 10th January 2020 to respond.’

The news came just days after the FA launched an investigation into allegations of discriminatory chanting aimed at the 30-year-old Republic of Ireland international during the Potters’ 5-2 win at Huddersfield on New Year’s Day.

A tannoy announcement was made during the game at the John Smith’s Stadium to warn spectators about the use of inappropriate language.

Derry-born McClean has found himself in the firing line in recent seasons for his decision not to wear a poppy on his shirt in the game closest to Remembrance Sunday, out of respect for those who died in the city on Bloody Sunday in 1972.

A statement from the Professional Footballers Association on Thursday 2nd January read: ‘James has been subjected to this type of vile abuse throughout his career, and he will be fully supported in the same way as any other individual who receives abuse based on their race, religion or nationality.

‘It has become clear that this type of abuse is on the rise and is becoming a weekly occurrence for James. We will be talking with PGMO (Professional Game Match Officials) and the EFL to ensure that match officials are vigilant to this type of chanting and hope to see future action taken proactively on James’ behalf.’

Speaking on international duty in November last year about the regular abuse he receives, McClean revealed that he had been contacted by the FA before the trip to Barnsley and offered the association’s support.

He said: “To give them their fair dues, I got contacted by a member of the FA on Friday before the Barnsley game just offering support.

“I wasn’t expecting it, it was quite a shock, but in the same sense, credit where it’s due. He didn’t have to text me – he hasn’t for the last eight years – but credit where it’s due, he did to offer support, and they seem to be following up the chants from what happened on Saturday.

“Look, I’ve criticised them in the past, but I’m big enough as well to show and give credit where it’s due.”

Asked if he was tired of playing in England as a result of the hostility, the former Sunderland, Wigan and West Brom winger said: “No, not really. It doesn’t bother me. It probably affects my wife and my ma more, but that’s something I probably don’t take into consideration, how they feel.

“For me, I just get on with it. I think over the years, I’ve developed a kind of thick skin and it’s just water off a duck’s back for me when it happens.”

Tonight’s football fixtures:

Tuesday 7th January

The EFL Cup
Manchester United v Manchester City – 8:00pm

League One
Doncaster v Shrewsbury – 7:45pm

The EFL Trophy
Third Round
Newport v MK Dons – 7:45pm
Fleetwood v Accrington – 7:45pm
Salford v Port Vale – 7:45pm
Tranmere v Leicester City U21 – 7:45pm
Walsall v Portsmouth – 7:45pm

National League
Barrow v Dover – Match Postponed
Hartlepool v Eastleigh – 7:45pm

National League North
Altrincham v Blyth Spartans – 7:45pm
Boston United v Curzon Ashton – 7:45pm

National League South
Billericay Town v Wealdstone – 7:45pm
Chippenham Town v Hemel Hempstead – 7:45pm

The FA Trophy
First Round – Replay
Barrow v Atherton Collieries – 7:45pm
Salisbury FC v Eastbourne Borough – 7:45pm

Tomorrow’s football fixtures:

Wednesday 8th January

The EFL Cup
Leicester v Aston Villa – 8:00pm

The EFL Trophy
Third Round
Bristol Rovers v Stevenage – 7:45pm
Scunthorpe v Manchester City U21 – 7:45pm

The FA Trophy
First Round – Replay
Darlington v Solihull Moors – 7:45pm

Picture: Oakwell Stadium, home of Barnsley FC. (Richard Sellers/PA).