Footballer felt ‘manipulated’ at club meeting for racism, court told

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The footballer felt his club were trying to manipulate him into saying he had not suffered racist abuse from one of his supporters, an employment tribunal has heard.

Rico Quitongo has taken his former club Airdrieonians FC and one of its managers, Paul Hetherington, to court over allegations of racial discrimination.

The 22-year-old said he was racially assaulted by a fan during a game last year. The club said they had investigated the matter, but it was dropped due to “insufficient evidence”.

In a meeting with club officials, including Mr Hetherington, Quitongo said he had been told and it was felt the incident had not happened.

Mark Allison, representing Quitongo, asked him how he felt ‘as a young black footballer saying you had been racially abused’ when a ‘middle-aged white man’ told him the incident didn’t happen. was not produced.

Quitongo told the court: “It made me feel like I was trying to be manipulated into joining him to say it didn’t happen.”

Footballer Rico Quitongo has taken his former club Airdrie FC and one of its managers to an employment tribunal over allegations of racial discrimination (Andrew Milligan/PA) / PA wire

He said the other people in the room wouldn’t know what it was like to be in his place, and he added, “I just felt uncomfortable.”

Glasgow Employment Tribunal is reviewing how the case was handled, with Quitongo claiming to have suffered racial harassment and victimisation.

Quitongo told the hearing that the club had made a strong statement about the abuse he had suffered: “I would have felt supported and supported.”

The footballer told the court about the impact the following process had on him and how it was presented to the public eye.

A mental health expert he consulted said he appeared “vulnerable and abandoned by his workplace at the time”, and added that his mental condition had worsened due to the court.

The hearing was told about the incident itself and the aftermath had also taken a toll on the footballer’s mental health.

In October, Quitongo was told he was being put on a two-week leave to help clear his head, and he alleges he was not selected for five games between September 18 and November 6 due to the current situation.

Airdrie FC manager Paul Hetherington arrives at the hearing (Andrew Milligan/PA) / PA wire

Andrew Maxwell, representing the club, told the court that bosses were concerned about his mental state at the time.

The court also heard that the club had been made aware of allegations that they had been involved in drug dealing by two members of the public, which Quitongo agreed with Mr Maxwell needed a proper investigation due to their severity.

But Mr Allison told the hearing that there had been no investigation into the matter and that Quitongo had not been questioned or anyone else.

Mr Maxwell had previously informed the inquiry of a statement made by the club on September 15 in which he confirmed investigations into the incident were ongoing and said he would not tolerate racism.

He said, “That would seem like a pretty strong statement, would you agree?”

Quitongo replied: “Yes”.

A police investigation concluded racist abuse took place at a game between Airdrie and Queens Park in September last year.

Quitongo has the support of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the footballers’ union PFA Scotland.

He left Airdrie FC in January this year to join Peterhead FC, and he now plays for Queen of the South.

The court continues before Judge Hoey.

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