Luton Town Supporters Trust are seeking legal advice after what they have described as a ‘trial by social media’ following allegations of racism against the club, from which they have since been cleared, during the home game with Accrington Stanley last month.
Assistant BBC Sport producer Karen Fazackerley, who was in the away end on the night, alleged on Twitter that visiting defender Michael Ihiekwe was the victim of monkey chants from Luton supporters, while a BBC Radio Lancashire commentator claimed he also heard racist remarks towards visiting striker Offrande Zanzala.
Fazackerley's tweet was then retweeted by TV presenter Jacqui Oatley to almost 150,000 followers, despite not actually being in attendance at Kenilworth Road, while the Sun's online section also ran a story interviewing Stanley forward Zanzala. although he hadn't actually heard the supposed chants.
After both the club’s investigation and Beds Police found no evidence of either allegation, Fazackerley tweeted: "I will not be making any further comments on this matter. I reported what I heard in true faith to the police immediately during the match and I would like to thank @bedspolice and @LutonFC_Police for their investigation and ongoing support."
In a response to this, Oatley went on to say: "Good for you. Intelligent people (including the police) understand that a lack of audio evidence does not necessarily mean it didn’t happen.
"Shame you’ve had to put up with so much vitriolic abuse for doing what you felt was right. Time to move on.”
However, this has quite rightly incensed Luton supporters, and in a statement from the LTST last night, they said: “The LTST board are extremely disappointed at the allegations of racism that were levelled at Luton Town FC supporters during the Accrington home game.
“Furthermore, we are angered at the trial by social media that Luton fans have had to endure as a result of the irresponsible way in which these allegations were brought to light.
“Whilst the board recognises and welcomes the need for any such concerns to be reported, we believe this should remain through official channels, rather than the platform of social media.
“We would also like to express our disappointment at the condescending, patronising, contradictive and at times arrogant approach that was adopted to these allegations by certain members of the media, who were not present at the event, and who should know better, and be expected to act much more professionally than they have done.
“A number of organisations, including the Trust, Luton Town Football Club, the LTFC Community Trust, and others on a wider scale such as Kick It Out work incredibly hard to promote and ensure greater inclusion and equality within football, and such reckless reporting of unsubstantiated claims can have a negative impact not just on their good work within the sport, but across society as a whole.
“The reputation of the Hatters’ fanbase is something we take incredibly seriously and as fans ourselves, it is something we hold much pride over.
“Therefore, the confirmation by Bedfordshire Police that no wrongdoing took place is welcomed.
“We take this slur against our support extremely seriously and given the strength of feeling raised by these allegations, on behalf of Town fans, we are currently in the process of seeking legal advice about the next steps available to us, in an attempt to restore and maintain the good reputation of our supporters.
“At this stage, we must stress that we are not threatening action, we are merely researching any options that may be available to us.
"We shall release a further statement in due course, once the legal advice we receive has been considered.”