Middlesbrough fan given three year banning order for racist gestures
A Middlesbrough fan has been found guilty of making racist gestures at three Blackburn Rovers players.
Ernest Goult, 72, was given a three year football banning order after Teesside Magistrates’ Court saw CCTV footage of his behaviour after a game at the Riverside in November last year.
The trial heard evidence from Blackburn players Rudy Gestede, Lee Williamson and Marcus Olsson who described seeing Goult making monkey gestures.
Goult, of High Stone Close, Redcar, denied being racially abusive and told District Judge Stephen Harmes that the gesture he used – which saw him put his right hand under his left armpit – was commonly used on Teesside and meant “it’s the pits”.
He said he was frustrated after Gestede had scored a controversial late goal, which levelled the score at 1-1 and left Boro keeper Dimi Konstantopolous injured.
Goult, a great grandad, was also captured making other obscene hand gestures.
The trial heard from Lee Williamson, Blackburn captain on the day, who said Goult made a “one armed monkey gesture”.
“It is implying I am a monkey” said Mr Williamson.
Asked if he thought that was because of the colour of his skin he replied: “Yes.”
He said: “I thought, what’s the point? What’s that going to achieve?”
Gestede, in evidence, said he spotted the gesture and walked towards the stand before mimicking the behaviour, using two arms, to alert his teammates of the abuse.
Sweden international Olsson said he also saw Goult doing a similar “monkey” movement – but with two arms – which was not captured on video.
Goult, in his evidence, had said older people in Teesside would understand “the pits” gesture.
He said it goes alongside the expression “the pits” – which means “you’re rubbish” or “you’re smelly” – and was commonly used when he worked in the steel industry up until his retirement almost 15 years ago.
He said he did not direct it at one particular person and would have used the same gesture to white players.
Five character witnesses appeared for Goult – including a dialect expert whose work contributed towards the popular online “Smogtionary”, a website which lists Teesside dialect.
All five, aged in their 60s or 70s, said they were well aware of the gesture which “was not racist”.
The trial today heard from police football officers PC Christopher Hilton and PC Tim Swales.
PC Swales, 55, worked in industry for 13 years before working for the police, had attended more than 700 Middlesbrough matches in a 16 year police career, and had been attending as a fan since the early 1970s. He said he came from a “blue collar background” but “had never heard of the gesture for “the pits” or seen anyone use it at a match”.
He said: “I would class it as a racist gesture.”
Goult was previously of good character and had never been arrested, interviewed or cautioned by the police.
He was given a three year football banning order and ordered to pay a £600 fine and £660 costs.
The court heard that he had already had his season ticket suspended at the Riverside.
A statement from Middlesbrough Football Club said: “Middlesbrough Football Club has never hesitated to take strong and decisive action with supporters who have been identified as participating in racist incidents, and will continue to do so.
“We adopt a zero tolerance policy towards racism and proactively encourage supporters to report incidents of unreasonable and offensive behaviour within the Riverside Stadium.
“We have worked closely with Cleveland Police and Blackburn Rovers on this case to provide as much supporting evidence as possible and will continue to do everything in our power to help bring offenders to justice.
“We will now seek to arrange a meeting with Mr Goult to review the case before deciding on further action.”
District Judge Stephen Harmes said that Goult used the gesture to “cause distress to the Blackburn players” and that it was “clearly racist in intention”.
He said: “This trial is not about whether Ernest Goult is a racist. It is about whether he indulged in racist behaviour.”