BRAINTREE Town have said they are disappointed by the criteria used by an FA disciplinary panel to reach its verdict against midfielder Billy Crook in a case where he was alleged to have used a racial slur against former Iron player Scott Shulton.
And both the club and player are now considering whether to take further legal action in relation to the case.
The case involved an incident during a Vanarama National League South encounter between Braintree and Hemel Hempstead Town, who Shulton was playing for at the time, at Cressing Road during January last season.
Shulton had departed Braintree in September, with his final involvement during a second spell at the club coming as he had been sent off in an FA Cup tie at Royston Town, and the league game for Hemel Hempstead was the first time he had faced his former team-mates since leaving.
The Tudors player alleged that Crook referred to him in a derogatory manner as a Jew after a clash between the players when Shulton had caught the Braintree player with a late tackle in front of the main stand at Cressing Road.
Crook told an FA disciplinary panel at Wembley last month that he “100 per cent” denied making any comment involving Shulton’s ethnic background.
The FA panel heard how no-one else in the ground, including referee Wayne Cartmel, his assistants, the other 20 players on the pitch or anyone among the crowd of more than 430 – some of whom were in close proximity to the incident – at the game, heard any derogatory comments of a racial nature.
There was also no clear evidence shown from video footage taken at the game and the panel accepted that it was one player’s word against another’s.
They were, however, presented with audio evidence in the aftermath of the alleged comment that later picked up a reaction from Shulton where he could be heard repeatedly saying the word “racist” and added “that’s the same as calling someone black, no difference”.
The FA disciplinary panel unanimously concluded from what it had heard that, despite no conclusive evidence either way, ‘on the balance of probability’ a comment had been made and Crook was handed a five-match ban as well as a £300 fine and ordered to undertake an educational awareness course.
However, Braintree have been left disappointed with the ruling against their player.
They have said that rather than requiring a burden of proof that would find Crook guilty ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ in the way that would be required in a court of law, the FA had been prepared to accept a ruling ‘on the balance of probability’ which they considered as unfair against their player.
A club statement said: “Having heard the evidence of both players, we note that there was no corroborative evidence from any of: the FA’s match officials, the other 20 players, or any of the 432 crowd that day.
“Both the club and player are disappointed that the commission’s findings were merely on the balance of probability and not on the grounds of reasonable doubt.
“As a result, both the club and player are now considering further action and may make another statement in due course.”
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