A RESTAURANT chain has apologised to a group of black players from AFC Bournemouth who were told they would have to pay for their food before eating.

The players say their group was singled out in a branch of Pizza Hut and told they would have to pay first because of “the way you look”.

Half a dozen players had gone to Pizza Hut in Castle Lane West for a late lunch after a training session was cancelled because of the weather.

One of them, Anton Robinson, told the Daily Echo: “We ordered our food. The manager came up with the bill and said: ‘Would you mind paying first?’ “We asked if that was the policy and he said ‘no’. When we asked why he’d asked us, he said: ‘It’s the way you look.’ “We had a good idea what he was trying to get at. A group of white kids came in straight after us and they weren’t asked to pay before they had their food. The only thing that was different was the colour of our skins.

“We said we were professional footballers and were happy to pay when we had finished. That’s what normal people do. He hadn’t asked other customers to pay before their meals.

“It got a little bit heated, then he said: ‘If you’re not going to pay the bill now, I’m going to call the police to escort you off the premises’.”

Mr Robinson added: “We’re all grown men and we were smartly dressed. When the lads go out for a meal, we know we’re representing the club. We know that people recognise us and we have to behave.

“We were angry, but we kept our cool. The police spoke to customers who were eating around our table, and they said we were fine. We hadn’t shouted, kicked up a fuss or anything.”

Player, Liam Feeney said: “I couldn’t believe it. You don’t really expect it any more. I could understand it if all young men had to pay before their meal. The fact that there were other groups of white lads younger than us who weren’t asked didn’t really leave anything else for it to be.”

A spokesman for Dorset Police confirmed that officers attended the restaurant after receiving a complaint from Pizza Hut about disruptive customers.

“A group of men had been asked to leave. They weren’t happy about this, but we spoke to them and they did leave,” he said.

A spokesman for Pizza Hut said: “We do not tolerate any form of discrimination, so immediately investigated this incident. While our duty manager’s actions were absolutely not racially motivated, we are very sorry for the way this was handled.

“Police recently recommended that the restaurant started asking people to pay for their meal before dining, to combat a number of incidents where customers had left without paying.

“Unfortunately, it seems this approach was not enforced as a blanket policy and we have ensured all staff have been retrained. We will be contacting the customers concerned to apologise.”