Bad supporter behaviour is not just exclusive to Leeds United

Our West Yorkshire neighbours Leeds United have been the subject of negative worldwide headlines after the disgusting behaviour of a section of their supporters by Sheffield Wednesday on Friday night. Through much of the subsequent debate, many Leeds fans have rightly pointed out that all clubs have their idiots (shame Leeds United seem to have more idiots than most). As if to prove the point that we at Bradford City have our own morons, Chris Herbert has this season endured the following harrowing experience.

I entered the new season of 2012/13 with renewed optimism like most City fans, eagerly anticipating what Parky could do with a free hand and a full pre-season. Having supported City since 1968, I have to be an eternal optimist!

I went to about a dozen away games last season (I now live in the South West, so Valley Parade is a rare treat these days) and in the main, have enjoyed the witty, enthusiastic support shown by the majority of City fans on their travels. In particular, the away game at Cheltenham Town brought much laughter and congrats from the Stewards and Police at Whaddon Road, who said we were the funniest and best behaved of all their away support. I felt proud to be associated with the Club!

My enthusiasm turned to shame early this season well before half time at Meadow Lane as we played so well against Notts County. The large City crowd, rightly made their feelings clear about Lee Hughes apparent rehabilitation into the football community with much (relatively) good humoured taunting. However, a tiny proportion of the City away crowd seemed intent on plumbing new depths in adding vile chanting to the mix and included a new, disgusting face to this protest which offended their own away fans to such an extent, that large numbers of them, particularly young children, were moved from their seats by their parents after liberal use of the “c” and “f “ words in close proximity to children no more than 10 years old.

I actually believe that Lee Hughes should never have been allowed back into football but given where the law currently stands, would defend his right to ply his trade (albeit with plenty of vociferous opposition) until common sense prevails and such offenders are properly punished and banished from the game .

I hoped such chanting would be just a temporary lapse, but after 20 minutes of this behaviour, determined that it was unlikely to abate and on more than 5 occasions asked stewards to intervene. Each time, they said it wasn’t their job, that the police wouldn’t do anything either, and anyway, “they are not really doing much harm”. They did eventually agree with me that the behaviour of this tiny section of the City crowd (no more than six) was totally unacceptable, but they re-iterated that they had tried to get the Police to act at other matches, but had met with a response that the Police “did not wish to get involved in dealing with this problem”.

The behaviour of this small section of the crowd became increasingly abusive and disruptive and I filmed much of it on my iPhone, but it became clear that the Police, standing less than 5 yards away, were not going to uphold the law and try to moderate these fan’s behaviour. I felt sufficiently intimidated, sitting less than 5 yards way (the thugs remained standing throughout, in a seated area) not to feel comfortable in asking the police to intervene.

After the game I wrote to all the parties involved and also contacted Jason at WOAP to comment on his apparent support for these thugs in his article following the game. I was wrong about Jason’s position here. It became apparent that after talking to Jason, we had both been issued with the same hymn sheet but had misunderstood each other’s positions. At no time was Jason or WOAP supporting these thugs actions and Jason was happy to amend his report to make WOAP’s position clear; a very welcome and considerate move. I think we are now completely aligned in condemning this minorities actions.

Unfortunately, shortly after my postings on the WOAP site, either these “supporters” or someone associated with them, got hold of my private email address and sent me the most vile, threatening and abusive emails directly, promising physical harm to me and my family. I took these threats sufficiently seriously to withdraw any further action on my part and felt seriously intimidated and frightened. I should add that there is no way that my private email address could have originated from the WOAP site. I took legal advice and took the counsel of friends and family who were close to the club whilst I considered what to do next.

Eventually, having being able to identify these idiots through the help of work associates and sympathisers, I decided to report them to the correct authorities; I can say no more about any subsequent action but believe and hope that these people will receive serious, lasting punishment for their disgusting actions.

Little did I know, that as the season progressed, this offensive chanting and an underlying “sickness” in a small minority of fans, together with Racism, Homophobia and unacceptable behaviour at Grounds (lately the LUFC “Fan’s” behaviour) would become so topical.

Here is what I put on Facebook and Twitter this week and so far it has thousands of “likes”:

“So, who is going to have the courage to stand up to these awful issues swirling around the National game? Racism, Homophobia, Offensive chanting and just plain shocking behaviour at our Football Grounds? The clue was at the Olympics/Paralympics; great athletes, great support, inclusive behaviour (although ticketing could/ should have been vastly improved!) and a great outcome; feel good factor at record highs, a proper example to our children/grandchildren and a feeling that though winning was very important, all competitors added to the great atmosphere, win or lose.

“Contrast it with football where the vile chanting and behaviour both on and off the pitch will surely choke off the attendance of future generations of support? The “Kick Racism out of Football” campaign exists on an annual budget of £300k; if Ferdinand(s), Terry, Cole et al were sincere, why not kick some more money into that route? At the same time, why not campaign to get the Politicians to take this seriously?…cross party support to properly address this issue; education, proper sanctions for the perpetrators and the fans standing up for what is right.

“If we do not act now, it really will be too late.”

I suppose my main point is this; this is too important to leave to the Football Authorities (FIFA, UEFA, PFA, LMA, Football League, Premier League etc). They all have a shocking record in addressing this issue effectively. It is not restricted to BCFC but afflicts most League Clubs. The best and most effective, positive change in football has come directly from the fans, so what can fans do to address this?

My own opinion is that the fans MUST lobby their clubs to demand a change; if the clubs work with the Police to patrol grounds, why can the Police not be asked to intervene when they hear offensive chanting?( and I don’t mean the good humoured baiting and occasional good humoured “abuse”). It is of course a matter of degree but surely common sense can dictate what is reasonable? If I made some of these comments in the local shopping mall, I am pretty sure I would be arrested. Similarly, so called witty songs about homosexuals, blacks and other minority groups should be discouraged, at the very least.

I am no saint and enjoy some of the near to the knuckle banter that appears at all grounds, and it is a matter of degree, but much of it has now become too offensive and we risk choking off the very thing that will keep the game we love alive; future support from young supporters whose parents/ grandparents will move to other increasingly competitive forms of entertainment unless the environment at League Grounds improves.

It could start with Football getting its house in order and making a statement that any footballer found guilty of, for example, drink driving, could be banned for life from football or for a serious length of time depending on circumstances. That racism really is a serious offence and carries a consistent punishment, and that we want footballing role models to behave properly or face the consequences. At the moment, Terry can be seen to have behaved appallingly, be backed up by Cole and yet both continue pretty much as before.

We are the laughing stock of other sports and are on a downward slope to oblivion…but apparently still have the best league in the world? Really?

Categories: Opinion

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5 replies

  1. An interesting piece Chris.
    Can’t say i’ve come across any racial or homophobic chanting or comments at Bradford City Football games recently, let’s be honest all the real nasty stuff about opposition fans and what’s going to happen to them after the game in regards to them getting battered stopped around 20 years ago at VP, i’m talking about chants rather than violence which to a lesser extent still happens to this day. Once saw Hughes play at BCFC years ago and did feel the abuse he got was as bad as i’ve heard. I’d be a hypocrite if i said anything other than on many occasions i’ve called some opposition players and referees both c**ts and f**king blind c**ts. To be honest i love the idea of letting both the opposition and the officials know in no uncertain terms exactly what i think of their foul play, time wasting or perceived poor decision making. Obviously it’s not a good idea to do that when young children are within earshot, unfortunately i have given the object of my wrath both barrels on occasions then seen a young kid sat a little too close which i agree isn’t the best example of how to behave. I could mention other examples of what i and other BCFC fans got up to years ago at BCFC football games in regards to rows with opposition fans, but i don’t believe this is the right place for such brutal stories.

    • What an excellent article, making some very valid points. As for the comments of Mr. Myers, well, honestly, if he thinks it’s OK to foul-mouth off just as long as children (at what age do ‘children’ stop being ‘children, by the way?) aren’t within earshot then he should be classified with the ‘morons’ Jason talks about in his Northampton match preview. I am a 59 year old and it might surprise said Myers to learn that I loath and detest such disgusting language, believing that it is simply the utterances of people unable or unintelligent enough to find other words more suitable. There is a guy behind where I sit in Block C of the Midland Road Stand who regularly shows off his lack of brain power in exactly this manner.

      • To be honest i’ve also known folk who don’t swear or go to football games with the same lack of brainpower you mention above. I wouldn’t have thought the use of swear words was any yardstick to measure intelligence. Of course i could be mistaken but didn’t the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns swear like a trooper. Of course the use of four letter words in film and TV scripts nowadays are probably written by folk who have far more education than most, surely this doesn’t mean these film or tv script writers are thick. Yes the use of bad language can be a pointer to that person being a moron but i’m sure there are many that use the same words in the heat of the moment at football matches and elsewhere that are not.

  2. The point this excellent article makes is exactly why I probably won’t take my boys to Valley Parade. I’ve been a Season ticket holder for 20 years and would love to take my sons to watch the team I love.

    I almost brought my eldest to the 5-1 victory against AFC Wimbledon this season and during the first half, whilst the goals were flying in, I wished I had done. But then I was given a reminder as to why I chose not to. One questionable ref decision and it’s “you f**king cheating c**t” screamed at the top of someones voice no more than 20 feet from where my 4 year old would’ve been sat. It’s totally uncalled for, completely out of proportion with what has happened and because it’s in a football stadium it’s somehow supposed to be acceptable.

    The days of homophobic and racist chanting are thankfully (almost) behind us with very much the moronic minority lowering themselves to such levels but the following paragraph from this article perfectly sums up my feelings on the subject at the moment:

    “much of it has now become too offensive and we risk choking off the very thing that will keep the game we love alive; future support from young supporters whose parents/ grandparents will move to other increasingly competitive forms of entertainment unless the environment at League Grounds improves.”

  3. Chris

    i applaud your attempt to raise the profile of this issue and to describe your own experiences with our own fans. I could never condone such behaviour of fans and the way some have reacted to you is reprehensible if not illegal. Our game has a long tradition of people letting off steam on a Saturday afternoon and whilst clubs have encouraged more women and children to attend matches, a small minority of fans have yet to come to terms with what that means for their own behaviour. Indeed, establishing ‘family areas’ does not avoid the issue since sound has few barriers. A minority of fans, but still large numbers, continue to use language towards players, officials and other fans which when at home or in another social occasion they simply wouldn’t use. But of course, a football match is different isn’t it (or so they might argue).

    On the issue of racism, I equally applaud the recent actions of Jason Roberts, Rio Ferdinand and others to distance themselves from the current Kick It Out campaign. For me, the campaign is simply paying lip service to a more deep seated issue. At VP, when the announcer makes his pre-match anti-racism announcement, he appears to be reading from a well-rehearsed statement without any heartfelt support behing it. Maybe, it would help if one of the chairmen or one of the directors were to make the statement. It would be a better demonstration of our club really standing behind the statement. The FA themselves who ought to be taking a lead in this issue managed to delay their action against John Terry for almost a year arguably because they didn’t want to interfere with England’s preparations for the Euros. They’ve simply shown to the whole nation that this issue is not near the top of their priorities. Talk about self-serving behaviour! They ought to be ashamed with themselves. And we all still await knowing how Chelsea have punished Terry in this matter .. other than allowing him to continue as their club captain and thus representing all they stand for.

    Good luck with your own stance in the future.

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