Barnett players claim they were threatened with sacking because they said they would go on strike after a member of staff made an alleged racist comment on an opponent.
The club’s National League match in Stockport last Saturday was called off and an announcement was made to the crowd following an allegation against Barnett’s first-team logistics manager, Ricky Bartlett.
The club says that police concluded that day that “there was no allegation or substance to a criminal investigation”. The players told Bartlett to stay away from training on Monday, but when he arrived, he was confronted by club captain Jamie Turley.
The Guardian has been told that the team had lengthy discussions about not playing Tuesday’s match at Southend and that a threat posed as a result To dismiss anyone who refuses to participate. The match went ahead as scheduled, with Southend winning 2–1.
Messages between the players and Barnett’s president, Tony Cleanthus, were relayed on Monday and Tuesday by football chief Dean Brennan, who is also acting manager.
Clenthus said Turley and Bartlett were suspended on full pay pending an investigation. “The suspension itself is not a disciplinary action or a reflection of guilt,” he said.
Asked whether players had been threatened with sacking if they didn’t play against Southend, Clenthus said: “I haven’t spoken to them. [and] I am not aware of any threats to ‘sack’ players outright. However, it is worth noting that players are contracted under standard FA play contracts to participate in football matches, so I would posit that any threat to play would not be a breach of their contracts and heavily influenced by the National League. Will ban ,
Clenthus said an investigation into the alleged remarks by Bartlett was conducted on Saturday, which was done by a security officer in consultation with police. “The senior police officer present at the scene confirmed that there was no allegation or substance to the criminal investigation,” Kleanthus said.
He said the club was investigating further “to ensure a comprehensive review of the matter” and that comments would be sent to the Football Association. “The club will not tolerate racism or any other form of abuse and will act swiftly and firmly to deal with any such behavior,” he added.
The Guardian has contacted Bartlett for comment via the club.