Northampton Town Supporters' Trust responds after member steps down following online comment to Cobblers fan

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‘I didn’t anticipate a challenge on my mental capacity for holding the opinions that I had’

A former member of the Northampton Town Football Club Supporters Trust is being investigated for a social media comment referring to a fan's mental health condition.

The Football Supporters Association (FSA) is looking into the comments made during a dispute between the former trust member and a fan on Facebook over the plans to build warehouses on land next to Sixfields Stadium.

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The club’s plans have been posted on West Northamptonshire Council’s planning portal and outline nine warehouses earmarked for the 19-acre site should the land deal – which is currently pending a judicial review – be signed off.

The East StandThe East Stand
The East Stand

In posts seen by the Chronicle & Echo, the trust member referred to the fan's "mental condition" placing him in "this delusional state" when criticising the fan's views over the scheme.

The fan said: "I understand the issue with the East Stand and surrounding land is an issue of much debate which raises a lot of emotions.

"I shared my view on the issue in a public forum and I did anticipate that others could potentially disagree with me.

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"I didn’t anticipate a challenge on my mental capacity for holding the opinions that I had. I have Aspergers and I have had mental ill health in the past. Fortunately, the words written in that particular comment didn’t trigger any negative episodes with my mental health as I have developed coping strategies that helps me lead a happy and independent life.

"What brought concern to me was the carelessness of the language used when my opinions were challenged, as that type of language could potentially trigger a negative episode to someone who may indeed struggle with their mental health. I would expect someone in a position of authority to conduct themselves professionally.

"I hope saying something in some way brings change, clarity that I am doing okay to those who have been concerned and also encouragement to others to stand up to these sort of comments.”

Trust chair Andy Roberts said the trust member had since stepped down from his role and also claimed that the fan had made controversial comments in the past.

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Mr Roberts said: “The trust member who posted on Facebook, entirely in a personal capacity, addressed his comments with the complainant and stepped down at the annual general meeting.

“Any comments that cause unnecessary offence are clearly unacceptable, and we have made suggestions to the FSA with a view to resolving this matter.

“The complainant has actually never raised this matter with us directly but we believe that a positive way forward would be to meet with him and discuss further.

“It should be said that the complainant also made similarly offensive comments around mental health in respect of the trust board back in August last year.”

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Mr Roberts continued: “In my chairman's notes at the trust AGM, I stated going forward that I hoped football fans with opposing views would communicate with each other in a way that is polite, respectful and constructive.

“I would urge the chairman of NTFC and the FSA to add their voices - in that way club, trust and FSA can together send a powerful message that offensive communication has no place in football.”

An NTFC spokesman said they hoped the trust board would make a public apology.

The club spokesman said: “We hope the trust board will make a public apology [to the fan]. The club has known about these comments for a while and we have shared our disappointment with the trust board privately.

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“We have highlighted this type of behaviour on a number of occasions; however we do note there have been some changes on the trust board at last week's AGM and we are hoping to see further improvements in behaviour moving forward."

The club spokesman said they had experienced similar issues in the past with offensive comments being made about club board members but welcomed action taken after complaints to the FSA by supporters.

"These are important steps as we look to rebuild the relationship going forward.”