Rico Quitongo: Airdriedonians and director Paul Hetherington clear racism allegations made by former player

Soccer player Rico Quitongo described the loss of his racist allegations against his former club as a “bitter blow”.

The 23-year-old man took Airdridonians FC and one of its directors, Paul Hetherington, to employment court over allegations of racial discrimination.

He claimed he was racially abused by fans during a match last year, and the club had launched an investigation into the matter, which was dropped due to “insufficient evidence”.

An employment court hearing in Glasgow examined how the case was handled, and Kitongo claimed he was the victim of racial harassment and victimization.

But in his ruling, released this week, court judge David Hoey ruled against Kitongo, saying the allegations were “unfounded.”

Airedridonians director Paul Hetherington acquitted in employment court

“This ruling is a devastating blow to all who have confronted racism in our national sport,” Quitongo said after the verdict.

“This entire episode was an incredibly painful, traumatic, and harrowing experience for my family, friends, and myself.

“During this long and arduous legal process, I have been overwhelmed by a wave of support from football fans and players. I am very grateful for this solidarity.”

In a witness statement to a hearing in June, Kitongo said that on the night of Saturday, September 11, last year, someone overheard Airdrie fans racially abuse him at a game that day. I was told that I made

AIRDLEE, SCOTLAND - MAY 15: A general view during the second leg of the Cinch Championship play-off final between Airdrie and Queens Park at Pennycars Stadium in Airdrie, Scotland on May 15, 2022. (Photo credit: Craig・ Foy / SNS group)
David Hoey said claims against Airdridonian and Hetherington were ‘baseless’ and ruled against Kitongo

He said he felt “upset and disgusted” after hearing an audio message that spoke of the racist slurs, and reported the incident to the club the next day.

The Hiring Judge said Club and Mr Hetherington, called the defendant, could not be held liable for the alleged abuse.

The judgment said: “The allegation was that the spectator directed racial abuse at the plaintiff, which is not conduct for which the defendant could be legally held liable under the Equality Act.”

Another issue considered was that, at a meeting with club officials on 12 October 2021, petitioner Kitongo claimed that he had been threatened with being dropped from the playing team “because of the color of his skin”.

Officials said the meeting focused on the media statement and Kitongo’s desire to retract it.

The court “did not find that the petitioner said it was because of the color of his skin that it was withdrawn.”

Quitongo joined Peterhead and now plays for Queen of South.
Kitongo joined Peterhead in January and now plays for Queen of the South.

To balance the possibility that this was not said, the focus was on the statement and the petitioner’s misfortune that it was issued.

Last October, Kitongo was told he was ordered to take a two-week leave of absence to clear his head and was selected for five games from September 18 to November 6 due to the ongoing situation. claimed it wasn’t.

He left Airdrie in January this year to join Peterhead FC, where he currently plays for Queen of the South.

In conclusion, Hoey said:

Kitongo had support from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Scottish Union.

He said he would take time to consider the lengthy sentence in detail.

PFA Scotland's Fraser Wishart said the ruling was
PFA Scotland’s Fraser Wishart said ruling was ‘deeply disappointing’

Fraser Wishart, CEO of PFA Scotland, said: “The court ruling in the Rico Quitongo case is a tribute to the player, his family, friends and everyone who has confronted racism in Scottish football. It’s very disappointing for people.

“The past few years have seen a spate of racist incidents in Scottish football, and we are in danger of going back to a bad time, and any move in that direction must be halted.”

The Scottish Football Association has launched its own investigation into Kitongo’s allegations of racism.

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