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Fair Play For Fans

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 26/02/2001

There has been great progress in football over the last 10 years with the FA, police and football clubs working together to achieve the demise of soccer violence.

The success of this can be seen with parents taking their children to football matches and the creation of family enclosures. There still remains a small core of what are popularly know as football hooligans but, except for the odd isolated incident, the violent conflicts between opposing fans that were once too common have now been almost eliminated.

Part of the process in attacking the root cause of soccer violence was the introduction of stringent rules for professional footballers in their behaviour on the field and the banning of conduct or gestures that might inflame fans. In this regard the FA act quickly against offending players with heavy fines and even suspensions.

The appointment of safety officers and stewards to maintain the safety of the fans after fences and barriers were removed was another initiative that was also conducive to preventing the conflicts between opposing fans. The heavy presence of the police at railway stations, bus stations and routes to and from grounds has also been a successful deterrent.

With yesterday's violence now converted to today's singing, jeering and chanting most fans are now able to travel around the country to follow their team and watch football matches in relative safety. Or so we are led to believe.

The recent incident at the Nottingham Forest vs Grimsby Town match in which fans were alleged to have been treated with excessive violence by stewards, and police officers claiming they are not authorised to intervene, highlights an area of concern to football fans everywhere. The apparent disregard of both the FA and football clubs to the action of match stewards who appear to possess special rights in restraining spectators and ejecting offenders from the ground is not only a concern to fans but is a serious threat to the aim of ending football violence.

There can be no sympathy for persons who are removed from a stadium for inciting racism, violence or disorderly conduct. Most fans would welcome that. But in ejecting offenders stewards must, according to law, use minimum force to do so but, in case after case, football fans around the nation have complained to no avail about the actions and attitudes of stewards, and the non intervention by police, in incidents that can be clearly defined as physical assault.

It appears that in football the issue of stewards conduct is a no mans land. Neither the police or the clubs appear to accept any responsibility during incidents and when complaints are made the complainants themselves are often labelled as "trouble makers" and ejected from the stadium.

Are we soon to see the day when fans are in more danger from stewards than they are from opposing fans? Some of the fans who were present during the Nottingham incident certainly felt so with some describing the action of stewards as frightening.

This one incident highlights the need for the intervention of the Football Association. Now is the time when the FA should be taking action to protect football supporters and The Fishy calls for the FA to conduct an inquiry into the whole concept of stewarding and policing of football matches and enforcing a code of conduct for both stewards and police.

Other news

Steve Livingstone and David Smith, who both had to go off in the first half of the game against Forest on Saturday with injuries, will both be out missing for several weeks with a calf strain and hamstring problems respectively.

Next Story: Campbell For Town?

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