Rico Quitongo has been left “bitterly disappointed” after losing his race discrimination claim against former club Airdrie.
The 22-year-old described the employment tribunal decision as a “bitter blow for anyone who has stood up to racism”.
Quitongo claimed he was racially abused by an Airdrie fan during a game against Queen’s Park in September 2021 but the club later issued a statement saying, “there is insufficient evidence to take further action.”
He was then released from his contract the following January and signed for Peterhead.
He now plays for Queen of the South in Scottish League One.
The tribunal examined how the claims were treated by Airdrie with Quitongo claiming he was the victim of racial discrimination.
The club denied any discrimination and while giving evidence at the tribunal a director dismissed claims that there was a racism problem among their supporters despite claims fans had been wearing Ku Klux Klan outfits to a game and had been pictured giving Nazi salutes.
Airdrie insisted anyone caught partaking in any such actions would be, and have been, banned from the stadium.
Fraser Wishart, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association Scotland, warned “we’re heading back to the bad old days”.
He said: “With a litany of racist incidents in Scottish football over the last few years, there a real danger that we’re heading back to the bad old days, and any movement in that direction must be stopped in its tracks.”
He added: ”The tribunal ruling in the Rico Quitongo case is bitterly disappointing for the player, his family and friends, as well as all those who have stood up to racism in Scottish football.
“Decades after fans, players, and clubs, fought so bravely to kick racism out of our football grounds.
“To begin with we need stricter enforcement of existing SFA rules on racism, with instant action a prerequisite.
“It’s simply not good enough to have boardroom assurances and platitudes from football clubs that they will sort out this malignant abuse in their own way.
“Any drift towards a return to 1980s style racism in our national game will not be tolerated by the players’ union who will challenge this in every possible way, for the good of the game.
“The tribunal has delivered an extremely lengthy judgment that we will now take time to consider, before deciding on an appropriate course of action.”
Commenting on the findings of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, Quitongo said: “This judgment is a bitter blow for everyone who has stood up to racism in our national sport.
“This entire episode has been an incredibly distressing, traumatic, and harrowing experience for my family and friends, as well as myself.
“I have been inundated by a groundswell of support from football fans and players alike during this lengthy and arduous legal process. I am hugely grateful for this solidarity.
“My trade union, the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) Scotland, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have both shown the leadership and courage in supporting my legal claim.
“I will now take time to consider the lengthy judgment in detail, while taking advice from PFA Scotland, the EHRC, and my legal team.”
Airdrie said: “Airdrieonians Football Club abhors all forms of discrimination and take a zero-tolerance approach to racism.”