League One fixture suspended for 10 minutes before play resumed; Lancashire Police say five Bolton fans were arrested for offences including being drunk and disorderly, pitch encroachment and one assault on a police officer; police working with Morecambe on the alleged racist remarks
Sunday 6 February 2022 08:49, UK
A police investigation is underway after Saturday's League One game between Morecambe and Bolton at the Mazuma Stadium was halted when the referee took both sets of players off the pitch due to alleged racist abuse from the home crowd.
With Morecambe leading 1-0, the match was paused just before stoppage time when Bolton boss Ian Evatt walked onto the pitch to speak to referee Ross Joyce.
Bolton's official Twitter account posted: "With Ian Evatt furious with something said in the stands by a home fan behind the dugout, the referee has pulled the players off the pitch.
"One home fan had already been ejected a few minutes ago."
The players and officials returned after a 10-minute break to finish the game, which ended 1-1 after a late equaliser from Bolton's Amadou Bakayoko.
Shortly after full-time, Morecambe said in a statement: "Morecambe Football Club are aware of a series of incidents and allegations that have been made during Saturday's fixture against Bolton Wanderers in Sky Bet League One.
"The club will work with all relevant authorities to investigate the above.
"Morecambe FC will be making no further comment at this time."
Lancashire Police say they are working with Morecambe on an investigation into the alleged racist remarks and revealed five Bolton supporters were arrested for separate offences.
A police statement read: "An investigation is underway after disorder and allegations of racial abuse at today's match between Morecambe and Bolton.
"The League One fixture was suspended for 10 minutes at 4.45pm and the players taken off the pitch after a number of racial slurs were directed towards the Bolton bench.
"After the match resumed and Bolton equalised a number of their fans encroached onto the pitch to celebrate and control had to be regained.
"In total five Bolton fans were arrested for offences including being drunk and disorderly, pitch encroachment and one assault on a police officer."
Inspector James Martin, of Morecambe Police, said: "Some of the behaviour at this afternoon's match was utterly disgraceful and completely unacceptable.
"We will be working closely with Morecambe FC to identify those responsible so that we can take the appropriate action."
Evatt said the abuse, which included alleged spitting, had been persistent throughout the 90 minutes and condemned the behaviour of a small section of the home supporters.
"I'm emotional really. From minute one, the barrage of abuse that me and the rest of my staff and players got from directly behind the dugout was astonishing," he said.
"No protection, encroachment, spitting and then it takes the worst of all remarks, a racist remark for then for somebody to stand up and do something about it.
"I'm emotional. This game sometimes never fails to disappoint me and I'm even more astonished that the announcement comes over the tannoy to say both sets of the supporters weren't behaving themselves. It wasn't our supporters. Our supporters, yes, encroached the pitch to support our team and I'm not saying that's right - but our supporters didn't behave in that way, so I was really disappointed with that as well.
"I feel for Stephen (Robinson) because his team has fought and it's not in any way, shape or form a mark against him. He was outstanding on the touchline and completely understanding.
"When we went into the changing rooms with the break, we spoke and we said that this can't overspill and we can't lose our own discipline. As upset, disappointed and emotional we are, we have to channel that into 10 minutes of football and give it everything we've got and the players did that incredibly well.
"I'm a bit emotional because they've really come together and they've managed to get something out of this game, but the way they stuck together, if one of us gets abused, we all get abused and we all stuck together, we all did the right thing and until this gets stamped out of the game, it never fails really to disappoint me."
Bolton chairman Sharon Brittan later said in a statement: "I completely stand by the actions of Ian and the rest of the staff, who were subjected to abuse throughout the game.
"However, when that abuse became racist he had no option but to make a stand against these completely unacceptable and disgraceful actions from a minority of the Morecambe supporters.
"I implore Morecambe Football Club to treat this matter very seriously because football needs to play its part in rooting out all forms of hatred and discrimination from society.
"Football is a game for all and what we witnessed today was shocking. We will ensure that our colleagues who were abused receive the care and support they need."
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