Michael Stewart: Minority of Hearts support '˜venturing down very, very dark road'
Former Hearts player Michael Stewart has voiced his concerns that a 'sub-section' of the Tynecastle support 'are venturing down a very, very dark road'.
Stewart, who played for the club across two spells, was speaking on Sportscene following two arrests at the Hearts v Motherwell game on Saturday for alleged racial abuse.
Motherwell substitute Christian Mbulu was targeted when warming up at the side of the Tynecastle pitch. Video footage has been handed over to Police Scotland showing as many as 20 fans in the stadium’s main stand shouting comments at the 22-year-old.
The incident follows alleged racial abuse directed at Celtic star Scott Sinclair from an Aberdeen fan during last Sunday’s Betfred Cup final and alleged racism towards Dons full-back Shay Logan during the club’s clash with Rangers in midweek.
Stewart admitted that the rise of these problems are “worrying” as societal issues drip into football. He also voiced concern that a minority of the Hearts support is “trying to cosy up” to right-wing activist Tommy Robinson, who announced recently on social media that he was planning on attending a game at Tynecastle.
“This isn’t just a football issue, this is a social issue,” Stewart said. “There’s a rise of this far-right type mentality and it’s filtering through into the football.
“Of course it’s not just isolated to Hearts as a club but Hearts have to be aware of the fact that there was the Neil Lennon incident where he was hit with a coin, there’s been incidents where there’s a sub-section of the support who are trying to cosy up to Tommy Robinson.
“These things are not what you want to be seeing associated with a club like Hearts, with any club. They need to stamp it out and Ann Budge is doing that but there has to be an awareness that a section of the Hearts support are venturing down a very, very dark road.”
Hearts were quick to react to Saturday’s unsavoury incident, issuing indefinite bans to two supporters as they fully co-operated with the police.
“This behaviour will not be tolerated,” said Ann Budge, the club’s owner. “The individuals involved have already been identified and have received immediate and indefinite bans.
“I’m so very disappointed that instead of being able to enjoy a good victory and staying at the top end of the table I’m having to comment on the entirely unacceptable behaviour of a minority of supporters.”
Motherwell manager boss Stephen Robinson branded the abuse an “absolute disgrace”, adding: “I thought this was 2018 but that was the dark ages and dinosaur stuff for a player to have to deal with that kind of stuff. It is disgusting.
“They should not be anywhere near football. There is no place for that in any walk of life. No walk of life should accept that in modern society.”
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