By Jon Couch
Boreham Wood have issued an apology to Ebbsfleet United goalkeeper Nathan Ashmore following an ugly confrontation with fans at Meadow Park on Saturday – but they flatly deny any suggestion that the abuse was racially motivated.
Ashmore felt pained enough to jump the safety barrier and climb into a section of home supporters after the hard-fought 0-0 draw, prompting a melee involving fans and players of both teams.
The incident came in the same week that Eastleigh fan Martin Lombardi had received a life ban after admitting racially abusing the same player during a match last April.
Wood responded by issuing a lengthy statement just hours later denying any such repeat offence but insisted that any supporter found in breach of club’s code of conduct will suffer the same fate.
Explaining the incident, the statement said: “When the final whistle went after the 0-0 stalemate against Ebbsfleet today, the Ebbsfleet goalkeeper Nathan Ashmore, felt angered enough to jump the safety barriers and confront a few of our home supporters.
“We have ascertained from our enquiries that some supporters behind the goal were calling him a “nonce”, and commenting on his weight, as he went about his normal goalkeeping duties, and especially when he took his goal kicks.
“We genuinely wish to apologise to Nathan and want to reassure people that though this incident was hurtful to him as an individual, and is not acceptable – it was in no way racial, as some fans have speculated.
“In truth, the make-up of our club, our squad, our staff and the fact that we reside in cosmopolitan North London and South Herts, would make that accusation quite ridiculous. As a club, we have prided ourselves and ensured over many, many years, that our employment policies regarding our day to day staff, our playing staff and the make-up of our coaching staff and academy scholars, that we are a totally inclusive organisation.
“We are totally colour blind, gender blind and do not tolerate any form of religious bigotry. We simply look for the right people, with the correct attitude, discipline and desire, whenever we employ staff. We would also operate a zero tolerance of any supporter found guilty of any racial overtones. In light of the incident today, we can only give you any further facts, as and when they are verified.
“We will neither blow the situation up nor will we play it down. We already recognise, that It is not acceptable for any goalkeeper to be called names – as such, our football safety officer began a thorough investigation and that investigation started directly after today’s game.
“We do however feel that it was a shame that Nathan felt compelled to jump the safety barrier, as it inflamed the situation. It was a situation that could have been much better controlled, if he had simply pointed out the name callers to a steward – as his actions put himself and others in harm’s way. That said, we do understand that logical thinking when emotions are running high, is not always possible.
“Luckily, we can report, after the chief steward’s debrief, was that two sensible home fans and our quick response stewards restrained the irate ‘keeper and averted any actual trouble from occurring. The fact other players from both sides felt the need to get a closer look is also regrettable – but for all those who watch football, that was nothing more than we see every week, when the handbag brigade start to push and shove each other at a corner and nothing more…
“We are though asking for anyone who saw this incident, or anyone who has footage or information to come forward in confidence and give a statement to our football safety officer. We will ensure that any supporter found to be behaving in a manner not conducive to an inclusive family club – will be banned immediately.”