Albion branded a 'disgrace' by Burnley fans' representative for supporting Gaetan Bong statement

By Andy Naylor

Chief sports reporter

Albion branded a 'disgrace' by Burnley fans' representative for supporting Gaetan Bong statement

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ALBION have been branded a “disgrace” by a leading Burnley fans’ representative for supporting a statement made by Gaetan Bong in the aftermath of his racism case against Jay Rodriguez.

Tony Scholes has accused the Seagulls of an “utter lack of class” in backing Bong’s response to claims Rodriguez had been exonerated and cleared by an independent commission set up by the FA.

Scholes says Bong “set himself up” for constant booing by Burnley supporters in Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Turf Moor. Albion boss Chris Hughton described the boos as “shameful”.

West Brom striker Rodriguez was charged by the FA with making a racist remark towards Bong during the Premier League clash against the Seagulls at the Hawthorns in January.

The commission found the case “not proven”, while acknowledging the complaint had been made in good faith.

Days after the verdict, Burnley-born Rodriguez told BBC WM: “I am always a great believer that the truth always comes out and it has.”

He also issued a statement on his official Twitter account claiming he had been “exonerated” and “cleared” and repeated that “Gaetan misheard our exchange during the game.”

Bong, responding to “my character being questioned”, denied he had misheard and said his conscience was “entirely clear” in a counter-statement published on Albion’s official website and fully supported by the club.

Scholes, 66, a leading member of the Burnley FC Supporters Groups, told The Argus: “Gaetan Bong, if he felt Jay Rodriguez said something out of turn, is absolutely right to go to the FA in my view and report it, I’ve no problems with that.

“I’ve no problem with Jay Rodriguez defending himself, I’ve no problems with the commission’s decision.

“I just thought that statement from Gaetan Bong, ‘I know what I heard’, was totally unnecessary and I thought Brighton and Hove Albion had a complete and utter lack of class in allowing that statement to be published on their website. I thought it was a disgrace that a Premier League football club would do that.

“The argument was between Gaetan Bong and Jay Rodriguez, not Brighton and Hove Albion and West Brom but between those two people.”

Bong was booed by Burnley fans as soon as he touched the ball during Saturday’s game.

“Gaetan Bong was clearly booed, there is absolutely no doubt about that,” Scholes said. “But Gaetan Bong must be very careful because, after the independent commission, he thought it appropriate to then start criticising Jay Rodriguez publicly through a statement, which Brighton and Hove Albion astonishingly published on their website, so he set himself up nicely for that.

“Jay Rodriguez is adored in Burnley, so they will always take his side and he (Bong) was booed. He’s not the first away player to be booed at a football ground. Burnley players have received some horrendous abuse from Brighton fans on our trips down to the Amex, so I don’t see any difference.”

Scholes denied Bong was booed throughout the match.

He said: “Was it sustained throughout the whole game? I seriously didn’t think it was the whole game. I thought it petered out.

“If people start whingeing about players getting booed – players get booed, that’s what happens.

“Jay Rodriguez I know personally, I know him well. Sometimes when you know one side of an argument it’s too easy to take that side.

“I haven’t spoken to Jay for a long time, probably not since he left Burnley.

“Did he say anything to Gaetan Bong that was out of order? I really don’t know. Knowing Jay, I would be very surprised if he did, but I don’t know because I wasn’t there.”

Anti-racism organisation Kick It Out have confirmed to The Argus they have received a report of discrimination against Bong during the game.

Albion have been investigating claims by supporters that Bong was subjected to monkey chants as he took a throw-in.

Scholes said: “I didn’t hear anything like that. I would be astonished if that happened.

“I would also suggest that Burnley Football Club would hold an inquiry if anything like that did happen. It’s not tolerated.

“It’s not tolerated at our ground or any other ground in this country and rightly so.”

Burnley issued a statement yesterday afternoon in response to The Argus stories about fans’ behaviour towards Bong.

The statement said: “Burnley Football Club prides itself on being an inclusive club.

“The club fully supports ‘Kick It Out’ and hosts a ‘Celebrating Diversity’ day each season, in support of our commitment to this stance.

“The club maintains a zero-tolerance policy of discrimination of any kind and we are absolutely committed to confronting and eliminating discrimination while promoting diversity; a commitment set out and evidenced through our submission to the Premier League Equality Standard.”