Hibernian have been praised for “going above and beyond to find the truth” after they conducted their own investigation to establish that one of their players had been racially abused by one of their own supporters during a match at Dundee United.
Scottish Football Association equality and diversity advisor Marvin Bartley paid tribute to the work of the Easter Road club following the incident two months ago.
A video on social media appeared to suggest Hibs’ Portuguese substitute Jair Tavares had been been the subject of a racist slur as he went to collect a ball that had gone out of play in front of a stand housing United fans.
The Easter Road club swiftly issued a statement calling for an investigation and the general consensus on social media initially was that the abuse had come from the home end.
After United carried out their own probe it was soon established that, given the placement of microphones, the comment in question had almost certainly come from the Hibs fans, although it was deemed at the time to be of a derogatory rather than racial nature.
“It is clear that the initial media clip and reaction by parties after that offered an unreliable and skewed representation of the incident,” said United back in October. “As a club, we are pleased that the unfair representation of our supporters has been rectified.”
After it was claimed that the comment was unlikely to be racial, the matter appeared to have been closed.
Hibs were unconvinced, however, and they revealed on Tuesday evening that they had carried out their own investigation and, with the aid of an audio forensic expert, had found that Tavares was racially abused by a Hibs supporter. The club have issued a plea to any fans who can help identify the culprit.
“Alongside a number of different stakeholders, the club has been working hard to ensure that a thorough investigation has taken place,” said the statement.
“To do so, the audio from that incident was sent to an independent audio forensic expert who subsequently confirmed that the comment made by the individual at the match was racial.
“Hibernian FC has a zero-tolerance position on all kinds of racist and discriminatory abuse and finds that behaviour completely abhorrent. It has no place at Hibs, in the game, or in wider society.
“Once again, Hibernian FC asks supporters to come forward if they witnessed this incident, so it can be dealt with appropriately. Please contact email@example.com.
“If the individual is identified, then the person will face the strongest action from the club.
“Hibernian FC is proud to have players, staff, and supporters from a number of different backgrounds and cultures, and will continue to work alongside all other clubs up and down the country to ensure that all forms of discrimination are kicked out of the game.”
SFA diversity officer Bartley, a former Hibs player and current assistant manager of Livingston, hailed Hibernian’s in-depth probe as the “benchmark” for any further racial incidents.
“It’s extremely difficult to explain how big a moment this is not only for Scottish football but society in general,” he wrote on social media. “A lot of hard work and effort has clearly gone into finding the truth, now we have it.
“This is the benchmark for clubs when they take on investigations, no stone should be left unturned! Football should be a safe place for all and there is no place for discrimination of any kind.
“I encourage people to keep calling it out. To the Hibs fans who did just this, you are the real heroes. To Hibs as a club, thank you for going above and beyond to find the truth.”