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Sport Fleetwood cleared over calling Akinfenwa a 'fat water buffalo'

17:20  24 september  2020
17:20  24 september  2020 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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Adebayo Akinfenwa holding a football ball: MailOnline logo © Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo

The PFA have lashed out at an FA decision to clear a member of staff at Fleetwood Town of any wrongdoing by calling Adebayo Akinfenwa a 'fat water buffalo' - after the FA's investigation found the term was not 'objectively racist'.

The Wycombe striker was incensed after being 'repeatedly' called a fat water buffalo at last season's League One play-off semi-final between the two sides, saying he felt 'dehumanised' by what he felt was a racist term.

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The FA are satisfied the term was used - but employed a race relations expert who ruled it was not objectively racist and therefore there was insufficient evidence to indicate a rules breach.

a group of baseball players playing a football game: The PFA have lashed out at an FA decision to clear Fleetwood of wrongdoing after a Wycombe Wanderers star was called a 'fat water buffalo' © Provided by Daily Mail The PFA have lashed out at an FA decision to clear Fleetwood of wrongdoing after a Wycombe Wanderers star was called a 'fat water buffalo' a person holding a football ball: The words were used against Adebayo Akinfenwa in the League One play-off semi-final © Provided by Daily Mail The words were used against Adebayo Akinfenwa in the League One play-off semi-final

However, both Wycombe and the PFA have expressed their disappointment with the findings, as the latter organisation argued that a white player of Akinfenwa's physique would not have been labelled in the same way.

'The PFA is disappointed that The FA has decided not to carry forward Wycombe Wanderers’ complaint of alleged racial abuse from a Fleetwood Town representative toward Adebayo Akinfenwa due to a lack of evidence,' the players' organisation said.

Treated as a "buffalo", Akinfenwa regrets that the federation has "let him down"

 Treated as a © Provided by Sofoot What is the police doing? Treated as " buffalo " by a member of the Fleetwood Town team in July during the League One play-offs, Adebayo Akinfenwa impatiently awaited the verdict of the English federation, hoping for a strong message from the part instances. It missed. The FA commissioned an independent expert and came to the conclusion that the insult was inappropriate, yes, but not racist.

'It is abundantly clear that a white player with a similar stature to Akinfenwa would never be described in the way he was during this incident. Black people have battled dehumanisation for centuries, and the PFA strongly condemns the use of all disparaging remarks that compare Black players to animals.

'This type of hurtful, derogatory language is unacceptable, regardless of intent, and Adebayo showed great courage in coming forward to report this incident, which tarnished what should have been a night of celebration for Wycombe Wanderers.'

It is unknown whether the term was used by a player, substitute or member of staff from Fleetwood.

Adebayo Akinfenwa wearing a football uniform: The FA found that the words against Akinfenwa had been used but were not 'objectively racist' © Provided by Daily Mail The FA found that the words against Akinfenwa had been used but were not 'objectively racist'

Meanwhile, the Championship club also expressed their disappointment in the outcome.

'The Club disagrees with the conclusion of the Football Association (FA). The investigation confirms that the language was used,' the statement read. 'There is no place in sport for such comments.

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'The Club believes the FA had the opportunity to take appropriate steps to ensure the conduct was punished appropriately and to make sure that everyone knows that this type of comment will not be tolerated in the future. The failure of the FA to act is disappointing.'

The FA's statement read: 'The FA interviewed a number of witnesses, including players and staff from WWFC and FTFC, as well as two match officials.

'The witness accounts all confirmed the use of the term 'water buffalo' or 'buffalo'. However, some witnesses did not consider the term to be discriminatory and did not consider it to have been used in a discriminatory manner.

a drawing of a face: The PFA said that a white player of Akinfenwa's stature would not have been labelled as such © Provided by Daily Mail The PFA said that a white player of Akinfenwa's stature would not have been labelled as such

'Others were unsure whether the term was discriminatory. Some witnesses stated they did consider the term to be discriminatory.

'The FA also commissioned a report from an independent expert in race relations to provide an expert opinion on the words. The expert was provided with all the details of the allegation, as well as the context in which the words were used, and concluded that the words were not objectively racist.'

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Akinfenwa is yet to make a comment on the findings, but after the play-off semi final, he took to Twitter to reveal his experiences of suffering racial abuse, highlighting how much more needs to be done to eradicate it from society.

a close up of a sign: Wycombe Wanderers also expressed their disappointment in the FA's findings on Thursday © Provided by Daily Mail Wycombe Wanderers also expressed their disappointment in the FA's findings on Thursday

He said: 'Monday night was one of the highlights of my career with Wycombe so far as we secured our place in the League One Play-Off Final at Wembley.

'However, what should have been an evening of joy and excitement quickly turned into one of anger and frustration

'Following the conclusion of the game I learned that a representative of the opposition had repeatedly referred to me as a Fat 'Water Buffalo' in a derogatory tone.

'Regardless of whether or not there was deliberate racial intent by using that language, and irrespective of the context in which it was used, if we are to make real and long standing change then we must strive to educate each other about these issues.'

In its ruling, the FA was at pains to point out that allegations of racial abuse are taken seriously and encouraged people to report similar incidents moving forwards.

FA STATEMENT IN FULL

On 08 July 2020, The FA received a formal complaint from Wycombe Wanderers FC (WWFC) in relation to a potentially discriminatory comment made by a member of Fleetwood Town FC (FTFC) during the clubs’ EFL League One Play-Off Semi-Final second leg on 06 July 2020. It was alleged that the member of FTFC had referred to a WWFC player as a “fat water buffalo”.

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No complaint was made to the match officials either during or following the fixture. However, a formal complaint was later made to The FA by WWFC and The FA subsequently commenced an investigation in relation to a potential breach of FA Rule E3(2).

The FA interviewed a number of witnesses, including players and staff from WWFC and FTFC, as well as two match officials. The witness accounts all confirmed the use of the term “water buffalo” or “buffalo”. However, some witnesses did not consider the term to be discriminatory and did not consider it to have been used in a discriminatory manner. Others were unsure whether the term was discriminatory. Some witnesses stated they did consider the term to be discriminatory. The match officials confirmed that they had received no complaint regarding the comment either during or after the game and so the discrimination protocol had not been enacted. Both match officials confirmed that the alleged term had been used. One of which confirmed it was during a dialogue between himself and a member of FTFC during which the member of FTFC was describing the actions of the WWFC player. Both match officials confirmed that they had not interpreted the words to be discriminatory in either nature or context which was why no red card had been issued to the member of FTFC.

The member of FTFC accepted using the alleged words but denied that they were used in a discriminatory context and were instead used to describe the player’s actions. The member of FTFC stated they had been aware that the WWFC player had a nickname of ‘The Beast’ and seen before the game on social media that he had not been able to train and so was potentially out of shape.

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In order to prove a breach of FA Rule E3(2), The FA must satisfy a Regulatory Commission of an objective test, also having regard to all the surrounding circumstances. Due to the unusual nature of the alleged words used, in addition to the witness interviews mentioned previously, The FA also commissioned a report from an independent expert in race relations to provide an expert opinion on the words. The expert was provided with all the details of the allegation, as well as the context in which the words were used, and concluded that the words were not objectively racist.

Having considered the witness accounts, the expert’s detailed report, and all of the facts and circumstances of this specific incident, The FA is not satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to charge the member of FTFC with a breach of FA Rule E3(2). For the avoidance of doubt, The FA is entirely satisfied that the alleged words were used by the member of FTFC. However, The FA has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to put before a Regulatory Commission to prove that the words amount to a breach of FA Rule E3(2).

This decision was based on the specific circumstances of the reported incident. Whilst on this occasion the words have not been deemed to be discriminatory, The FA understands the offence that has been caused to the WWFC player by their use.

The FA will therefore seek to monitor the use of these words moving forwards and discourage their use given the potential they have to offend. The FA reserves the right to investigate any future incidents where these words have been used, with the view that disciplinary action may be taken based on the individual circumstances of any case.

The FA acknowledges that it takes courage and conviction for any individual to make a formal complaint of discrimination and would like to thank all those involved in this case for coming forward. The FA takes all allegations of discrimination extremely seriously; strongly believes that education is of critical importance in fighting the battle against discrimination, and is committed to continue educating all of its participants to ensure that football is for all.

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PFA STATEMENT IN FULL

The PFA is disappointed that The FA has decided not to carry forward Wycombe Wanderers’ complaint of alleged racial abuse from a Fleetwood Town representative toward Adebayo Akinfenwa due to a lack of evidence.

It is abundantly clear that a white player with a similar stature to Akinfenwa would never be described in the way he was during this incident. Black people have battled dehumanisation for centuries, and the PFA strongly condemns the use of all disparaging remarks that compare Black players to animals.

This type of hurtful, derogatory language is unacceptable, regardless of intent, and Adebayo showed great courage in coming forward to report this incident, which tarnished what should have been a night of celebration for Wycombe Wanderers.

We recently published a report about racial bias in football commentary, and this incident demonstrates that bias extends to problematic language casually used on our pitches and in the dugouts. We encourage every football stakeholder to read our report, acknowledge the impact of the language they use – consciously or unconsciously – to describe Black players and take steps to address their bias.

We share Adebayo’s disappointment that this has allegation will not be upheld, especially since he took steps to speak publicly about the incident’s emotional impact. We are in contact with Adebayo, and will continue to offer him our support.

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