“Frustration”, “heartbreak” and “anger” were some of the sentiments of those with a connection to Burnley a day after a ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ banner was flown above the club’s players as they prepared to face Manchester City.
The 5-0 Premier League defeat at Etihad Stadium became a side issue as the focus turned to the words that trailed from the aeroplane.
Captain Ben Mee said he was “ashamed and embarrassed” and on Tuesday, Neil Hart, the club’s chief executive, said he was “disgusted” by the banner and the people who carried out the act.
He told BBC Sport: “We stand in solidarity with our players’ statement, stakeholders and management team, with our community and town. We will continue to be very strong in our condemnation of any form of discrimination.
“Disgusted is the word I’d use.”
When asked whether he saw Monday’s incident as a setback because of the Clarets’ work with the various communities of the town, Hart responded by stating it was “an opportunity”.
He added: “The battle is not won by banners, whether positive or negative. While it goes a long way with what the players are doing with the logos and Black Lives Matter on the backs of shirts, it is not won by that.
“It is won by doing work with communities, it is won by action and education. I still see this as an opportunity and will make it top priority.”
Later on Tuesday, Lancashire Police said that after assessing the information surrounding the incident, it concluded no criminal offences were committed.
The town, largely made up of white and Asian communities, had race riots in 2001 and previously elected councillors from the BNP, a far-right political group.
Hart said: “The far right has seen it as an opportunity infiltrate football. They’ve always been there.
“Work has been ongoing for the past 10 to 20 years to eradicate them. I will make it one of my top priorities to eradicate that from the club.”
Afrasiab Anwar, the chair of the club’s inclusion advisory group, said he was “frustrated” because of the progress he believes Burnley have made in engaging communities.
“When [manager] Sean Dyche came to the club one of the first things he and the players did was visit the local mosque to meet one of the communities,” Anwar told BBC Sport.
“Last night caused frustration. A small minority of individuals do not represent the views of this fantastic club and town. The most frustrating part of it all is that Burnley is on the up – we’re doing some fantastic things, we’re going to be a university town.”
Layton Marsden, a black Burnley fan who works in the club shop, said he felt like an “outcast” after seeing the banner displayed.
“It wasn’t nice, really,” he told BBC Sport. It did feel like, ‘am I supporting the wrong team here?’ I have supported Burnley for 18 years of my life, so I don’t think that I am.
“I know it is a small minority of people that have done that and believe that.”
BBC Sport also spoke to Clarets supporters about how they reacted to the banner:
George from the No Nay Never podcast: “I wasn’t interested in the rest of the game after seeing the banner. It undermines all the good work done in the last few weeks. It embarrassed the club in front of the entire world. I’ve spoken to other fans and there are fans’ groups who are raising money for anti-racist charities now.”
Joe Redmond from the Turf Cast podcast: “There was heartbreak when I saw the banner. I was disappointed and angry. There are some fans who are still offensive and in the minority. Burnley is a multicultural place and I feel it’s come a long way. I’m worried that the incident will undo all the good work the club has done.”
Liam aka officialvizeh on YouTube: “I found out when I was live streaming on Twitch. I went online and realised it wasn’t a sick joke – I was confused and stunned. I put out a video on as a response to the incident. Some fans have told me it’s the lowest they have ever felt.”