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Kick It Out Wigan Athletic issue warning to League One clubs over sectarian abuse of James McClean

McClean has been vocal about how abuse aimed in his direction was ignored by the authorities for a number of years

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James McClean: Vocal in highlighting sectarian abuse from the stands

James McClean: Vocal in highlighting sectarian abuse from the stands

James McClean: Vocal in highlighting sectarian abuse from the stands

Wigan Athletic have taken the significant step of writing to their League One rivals to warn them that an FA charge will come their way if James McClean receives sectarian abuse from their spectators. 

McClean rejoined Wigan last week, returning to the club where he played for two seasons between 2013 and 2015. It was during his initial stay with Wigan that he articulated his stance on not wearing the poppy, a decision that has made him a target for abuse in English stadiums.

His new employers wrote to their League One counterparts on Monday, advising that they should “consider putting plans in place to respond to any inappropriate or unlawful chanting”.

The letter – the details of which first emerged in The Guardian – was explained as an attempt to ensure clubs were “fully sighted on the circumstances and to avoid your club being charged with contravening rule E20 by the FA.”

It adds that if there are issues during a particular game, it would be “helpful” if the Ireland international was spoken to and informed of action that was taken.

McClean has been vocal about how abuse aimed in his direction was ignored by the authorities for a number of years.

There was a noticeable change in stance from the FA in the months before the pandemic shut down stadiums.

Barnsley received a £20,000 fine for sectarian abuse directed at McClean with the FA critical of what they perceived to be a slack attitude to the offences.

On another occasion, a game at Huddersfield was paused when McClean reported comments to the referee as he prepared to take a dead ball. Fans were warned to stop over the PA system.

Wigan say they have discussed the reporting procedure with McClean, the FA, the PFA, equality and inclusion organisation Kick It Out, the English Football League and Greater Manchester police.

McClean had previously expressed dissatisfaction with a lack of support from Kick It Out, with the player of the opinion that anti-Irish comments weren’t taken as seriously as other forms of discrimination.

But they came out strongly in support of McClean in January 2020 when they said he was subjected to ‘disgraceful anti-Irish and sectarian abuse’ during a league game with Millwall.

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Earlier this year, McClean’s wife Erin opened up on the impact of social media threats sent in the family’s direction.

McClean came off the bench to score on his Wigan debut against Charlton last Saturday and started their EFL Cup tie with Bolton last night.

He will be in Stephen Kenny’s squad for the World Cup triple header with Portugal, Azerbaijan and Serbia.

However, his fellow Derryman Michael Duffy is set to miss the cut – although the Dundalk winger will be on standby in case of injury.

McClean, the fit-again Aaron Connolly and former Dundalk favourite Daryl Horgan are ahead of Duffy in the pecking order.

Dundalk boss Vinny Perth revealed at the weekend that Duffy was in the shake-up, speaking in the context of the uncapped 27-year-old potentially being unavailable for a league game in Waterford on September 3.

As it stands, though, Duffy will be staying with his club.

Chiedozie Ogbene, who became the first African-born player to line out for Ireland at senior level when impressing off the bench against Hungary in June, looks set to be absent after picking up a hamstring injury. His Rotherham boss Paul Warne has said Ogbene needs to rest for a ‘few weeks’.

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