‘The chairman of a Grantham football club says that he has been backed by the team’s supporters’ group after he claimed that refugees staying in the town were “roaming the streets” for drugs.
A meeting of Grantham Town’s supporters’ club on Saturday, September 25, met to vote on a statement that would have asked the team’s chairman, Darren Ashton, to apologise for his comment and to retract it.
But the group has confirmed to Lincolnshire Live that the statement was not backed because it felt that it would be “inappropriate” to comment whilst the FA were investigating the matter.
The investigation also meant that the supporters’ group didn’t want to offer any further comment to Lincolnshire Live.
Mr Ashton claimed that only two people in the meeting voted in favour of the statement, and that the supporters’ group has around 300 members, although he does not know how many were in attendance at the meeting as he wasn’t able to attend.
A representative from the supporters’ group told Lincolnshire Live that the number of members was in fact 113.
The Urban Hotel on Swingbridge Road in Grantham is currently home to refugees from Afghanistan after the British Government pledged to take in 20,000 refugees from the landlocked country over the next five years following the recent withdrawal of British troops.
In a tweet posted about this on the evening of Thursday, September 9, Mr Ashton said: “True story, I’m the chairman of Grantham Town, and we had one of our players staying there on a long-term agreement.
“Last Friday they informed him he had to be out by Monday. No consideration for an 18-year-old lad away from his family and friends trying to make a career for himself.”
He then posted a further tweet in the conversation, which read: “Those refugees are as we speak roaming the streets of Grantham trying to get drugs.”
Mr Ashton then tweeted again on Friday morning saying: “It would appear I upset a few people last night with some of my responses to there [sic] messages.
“I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to absolutely NO ONE. Good day to you all.”
Speaking to Lincolnshire Live following the result of the supporters’ group meeting being announced, Mr Ashton said: “A massive majority voted in my favour which I’m very happy about because a lot of people have misrepresented what I said.”
Mr Ashton says that he didn’t single out Afghan refugees in particular, as he claimed that refugees of other nationalities are staying at the hotel.
He said: “All along I’ve asked for people to point exactly to something I’ve said which was racist and they can’t.
“I have already said that the way I worded the tweets was a bit poor and I’ve apologised for that side of things, but I’m a council lad who hasn’t got a degree like most other people so sometimes my wording is poor.
“But I won’t apologise for the actual content of what I said because I’m not a racist, and I’m not right-wing as some people have said.
“What I’ve learnt during this process is that if you happen to disagree with someone who is on the left, then you are labelled right-wing.”
Lincolnshire Live understands the national FA have now taken up the investigation into 45-year-old Mr Ashton, who is from Sheffield.
Mr Ashton added: “As far as I’m aware the FA investigation is not football related because the lads are still being paid and the academy is going well.
“We’ve got all ethnicities and nationalities working at the club and I invested £60,000 of my own money last year, and again this year.
“Doing this job is a thankless task, and I get calls from reporters such as yourselves ringing me up when I could be doing other things, but I don’t mind it and I will stand strong on this.”‘https://www.lincolnshirelive.co.uk/news/local-news/supporters-back-chairman-lincolnshire-football-5971622