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Rico Quitongo backed by EHRC in discrimination claim against Airdrie

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Show caption Rico Quitongo in action for Airdrie last July – the club said they take ‘a zero tolerance approach to racism’. Photograph: Craig Foy/SNS Group Football Rico Quitongo backed by EHRC in discrimination claim against Airdrie Quitongo claims he was victim of racial harassment by fan

Airdrie deny claim: ‘insufficient evidence to sustain complaint’ Ewan Murray @mrewanmurray Wed 30 Mar 2022 16.52 BST Share on Facebook

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The equality and human rights commission is supporting Rico Quitongo in a landmark race discrimination claim against his former club, Airdrieonians. An employment tribunal hearing is expected to take place in the coming months, in what marks the EHRC’s first case in Scotland since its setting up of a race discrimination fund in late 2021.

Quitongo claims he was the victim of racial harassment and victimisation after an alleged case of racist abuse from one of the club’s supporters at a League One game against Queen’s Park last September.

In a statement issued the following month, the club said: “Airdrieonians FC has conducted a thorough investigation into the alleged racist remark towards our player Rico Quitongo and have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to take further action.”

Quitongo, a 22-year-old defender, was released from his contract in January and subsequently joined Peterhead.

A statement issued by EHRC and PFA Scotland said: “The claim follows an alleged incident of racism against Mr Quitongo by a supporter during a match in September 2021, and arises from the way the issue was subsequently handled by Airdrieonians FC.”

Lynn Welsh, head of legal and compliance at the EHRC in Scotland, said: “There is no place for racism in football, or any other part of our society. As the equality regulator for Great Britain, the EHRC are pleased to support this case through our race discrimination fund. Every employer should understand their responsibilities, and what the consequences are for not following the law.

“As both employers, and as part of their wider community, football clubs have an important role to play in tackling discrimination. That starts with their duty to protect their employees, including the players on the pitch who are too often still subject to racist abuse.”

Margaret Gribbon from Bridge Employment Solicitors is representing Quitongo and said: “Rico is strongly committed to pursuing this legal claim in an effort to ensure that no other footballer experiences what he has.

“He hopes to effect much needed change, by exposing the gap between anti-racism rhetoric and the realities faced daily by footballers subjected to racist abuse and discrimination. He is extremely grateful to PFA Scotland and the Equality and Human Rights Commission for their support.”

Airdrie said on Wednesday: “Airdrieonians Football Club abhors all forms of discrimination and take a zero tolerance approach to racism. Airdrieonians conducted its own investigation and found that there was insufficient evidence to sustain the complaint made from a supporter.

“Airdrieonians also reported all matters to Police Scotland who, Airdrieonians understand, investigated and no criminal prosecution resulted. Claims have been made to the Employment Tribunal by Mr Quitongo. Those claims are denied in the entirety. No further comment will be made out of respect for those ongoing legal proceedings.”

The Scottish Football Association said: “The Scottish FA has initiated an investigation into race discrimination claims made by Rico Quitongo against his former club, Airdrieonians FC. We are aware that an employment tribunal claim has been raised by the player, supported by PFA Scotland and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and await the outcome of that tribunal.

“The Scottish FA condemns all forms of racist and discriminatory behaviour. Indeed, our Equality Vision states that ‘everybody should have the opportunity to participate in football at all levels, and that no individual should be discriminated against’.”

A Scottish Professional Football League spokesman said: “We are not in a position to comment given this is an ongoing legal matter.”

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