Non-league player sacked for sending 'disgraceful' tweets to Ireland's Harry Arter over his stillborn daughter
Hitchin Town have sacked semi-professional footballer Alfie Barker for offensive comments sent on Twitter to Bournemouth and Ireland midfielder Harry Arter about his stillborn daughter.
The Football Association will investigate the tweets from an account in the name of Barker, which were sent to Arter after Arsenal came from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 at Bournemouth on Tuesday night. One of the messages said: "atleast you didn't lose your kid."
It was then followed up by another tweet to the midfielder which said: "big hype just for a disappointment like the 9 months leading up to your childs birth."
On Wednesday, Barker issued an apology for what he described as ''disgraceful comments''.
Im sorry for every comment made , id like to apologise to harry arter and his family , for such disgraceful comments and im sorry...— . (@Alfjbarker1) January 4, 2017
... from the bottom of my heart— . (@Alfjbarker1) January 4, 2017
Southern Football League Premier Division side Hitchin hold Barker's registration, with the midfielder having been playing on loan at Langford and Codicote.
Hitchin issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon announcing they were "terminating Alfie Barker's registration and relationship with the club with immediate effect".
Hitchin manager Mark Burke told Press Association Sport the club would be looking into the matter when contacted on Wednesday morning.
The club's subsequent statement stressed any one of their players would be expected to follow a responsible approach to social media.
"Alfie Barker was registered to play for Hitchin Town in the Southern League and has appeared only briefly for the club in the 2016-17 season. He has been playing at Langford and Codicote on a dual registration basis," the club statement read.
"The club adopts a responsible approach to social media and would expect any player connected to Hitchin Town to do likewise.
"In the light of the player's irresponsible and anti-social behaviour, we are terminating Alfie Barker's registration and relationship with the club with immediate effect.
"We would reiterate that Hitchin Town, as a community club with established links with various segments of the public, has been a long-time user of social media channels and expects all club stakeholders to use them appropriately."
The Spartan South Midlands League Division One side later issued a statement which labelled Barker's comments "irresponsible" and also confirmed the club would be terminating their relationship with the player.
A statement from Codicote read: "Alfie Barker was registered with Hitchin Town, but under dual registration came to ourselves and Langford FC.
"Codicote FC adopts a responsibility to its social media outlets and expects the staff and players to do likewise.
"In regard to comments made by the player of an irresponsible and anti-social nature we have no choice but to terminate our relationship with him.
"We would like to make it clear that Codicote FC cannot and will not tolerate this behaviour; we have a responsibility to our community, supporters and the football family to stamp this behaviour out."
Barker scored 20 goals in 17 appearances for Codicote from an attacking forward role, including two in the 3-0 away win at Hatfield Town on New Year's Day.
In a matter unrelated to the social media incidents of Tuesday night, Barker was understood to currently be in the process of being transferred to Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division side Stotfold, subject to completion of the relevant paperwork.
However, in light of Wednesday's statements it remains to be seen whether that proposed switch will go ahead. Stotfold were not available for immediate comment when contacted by Press Association Sport.
Stotfold later said the club would not be continuing their interest in Barker.
Chairman Phil Pateman said in a statement to Press Association Sport: "I can confirm that earlier yesterday (on Tuesday) Stotfold FC submitted a seven day letter requesting permission to speak to the Codicote and Hitchin Town registered player Alfie Barker, with a view to him being transferred to the club.
"This was prior to grotesque comments made by Barker in regard to the tragic loss of Harry Arter's daughter Renee.
"As a result of those comments Stotfold FC have, with immediate effect, withdrawn our interest in the player."
Arter and his partner Rachel lost their stillborn daughter Renee in December 2015 and the tenacious midfielder has bravely spoken about the harrowing experience in the past.
Speaking on Talksport last year, he said: "For any parent who loses a baby or has a stillborn, you don't have any memories so this box gives you a chance to make hand-prints and foot-prints so you can create some memories for you and your partner.
"It is unbelievable how helpful they [4Louis] are when you are going through that. I hope none of the listeners have to go through what my family and the other families went through."
Arter has a tattoo on the inside of his right forearm which is dedicated to his daughter Renee who was stillborn on December 10 2015.
The 27-year-old's fiancee Rachel is currently pregnant and due to give birth to a baby girl in February.
He is understood to have been disgusted with the messages.
Arter made his competitive debut for Ireland in the historic 1-0 victory over Austria in November and will be an integral part of Martin O'Neill's plans in the coming year as the Boys in Green seek to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.