Roy Keane: the only interview you need to read

12/10/2014

14_Page_31_Perry When former Town manager Roy Keane released his new book this week, there was frantic media attention. Peregrine Cuttlefish, society columnist for the East Anglian Daily Times from 1871 – 1903, occasional Turnstile Blues contributor, and the only man to have spent three solid hours flicking rubber bands at Charles Dickens’s nose, instantly recognised the potential for a meeting of wizened minds, and was first in the queue for an interview. We are proud to present the full text of what can quite literally be described as a historic encounter. Transcribed by Gavin Barber.

Peregrine Cuttlefish: Thank you, Mr Keane, for agreeing to an interview. When I read your book I realised that we should meet. We have each spent our lives at the very forefront of history: living and shaping the moments that define our respective eras.

Roy Keane: You say that. I could agree with it or not agree with it. It doesn’t matter.

PC: One notices straight away your antipathy towards Sir Alex Ferguson, a man whom you chastise for being distracted by horses. This instantly reminded me of Thomas Hardy, who was notorious for tearing up drafts of his latest novel if he saw a moth in the room. A little-known fact is that Far From The Madding Crowd was only completed because me and a troupe of jobbing performers from the Lambeth Music Hall were on a 24-hour patrol outside his study, swatting moths with our banjos lest any should disturb Hardy’s concentration. Did you ever meet him?

RK: Thomas Hardy? Aye, a miserable fuck. Sure he could pull a sentence together but why be so bitter about everything? I look back on what I achieved as a footballer and see no acknowledgement of that in Hardy’s work. None at all. That to me seems disrespectful. I’ve no time for the man.

PC: There’s a passage in the book in which you say that Sunderland chairman Ellis Short spoke to you “like you were something on the bottom of his shoe”. I remember Queen Victoria herself saying this after an unfortunate encounter with the King of Norway. What are your views on the dowager empress?

RK: Queen Victoria? Ah, listen. She’s achieved a lot, there’s no doubt about that. But I don’t get the need to be flouncing around with the big black dresses and the moody face. OK, so the guy with the knob-ring died. Get over it, move on. The way I see it, you look back over some of the proper monarchs, your Henry Vs and what have you, and they never saw the need for that sort of showboating. They just got their heads down and got on with the business of oppressing people. I just don’t get why Victoria had to show off like that. Why the flouncing? Can’t be doing with it.

PC: Thinking back over my own time as one of the leading lights of the literary circuit, I recall a cocktail party in Woodbridge in which Lady Login-Error of Shotley caused quite the stir by reading to the assembled company from her diaries. She shocked the guests by revealing that she had tapped a servant-girl across the ankles for insolence. Your new book reveals several such confrontations. Is this a regular feature of your life?

RK: Listen, I’m no different from anyone else. People think I’m this kind of monster, always getting wound up and fighting people, but I’m just a normal guy. Yeah, I’ve had a few rucks. Jon Walters and Pablo at Ipswich, that’s in the book. Schmeichel at Man United too. And yeah, it happens occasionally. I was in the hotel this morning and there weren’t enough hash browns at the breakfast buffet. I don’t even like hash browns. It shouldn’t matter to me. But it’s about standards of professionalism. So, yeah, I smashed up the kitchen and pinned the chef against the wall. But it’s just part of life. Happens to anyone.

PC: You’ve said in the book that when you were a player you had a ‘character’ that you got into, and that all sports professionals are, to an extent, playing a role. I was fortunate enough to spend some time in the company of your fellow countryman George Bernard Shaw. Like you, he was perceived by some as a troublemaker: in reality he was studious and diligent, but with a playful side. I remember one occasion when we were dining at White’s with Horry Walpole: Shaw carefully arranged all the peas on his plate into a perfect pyramid, then toppled it just as the Prince of Wales walked past our table. The bumbling royal lost his footing amidst the leguminous sea, and clattered face-first into the Duke of Fife’s sherry trifle. Shaw was roaring with laughter. Which of the classical thespians did you follow in developing your role as a footballer? I thought I could see Stanislavski’s influence in the fight with Alan Shearer in 2001 which got you a red card.

RK: Sure, there’s an element of acting there. Stanislavski is nonsense though. Method acting? Don’t give me that. You’re either in character or you’re not. What business do you have calling yourself a professional if you’ve got to immerse yourself for hours? Get in there, do the job, get the fuck off the stage.

PC: And finally Mr Keane: a contemporary of mine was Charles Darwin, who like you attracted disdain, opprobrium and horror in his own time, only to be regarded as a visionary in later years. What are your views on human evolution? Have we reached optimum physicality or can we adapt further? Do you think it will ever be physically possible to…

RK: Stick it up your bollocks.

Roy Keane’s new book, Stuff That Makes Me Cross When I Think About It, is out now. Peregrine Cuttlefish’s memoirs are due to be published just as soon as he remembers the details of that hilarious thing that Edward Elgar once did with a goldfish. In the meantime, an excerpt can be found in the new issue of Turnstile Blues, on sale at Portman Road next Saturday or via this website soon afterwards.


Walk a mile in my shoes

10/10/2014

By Stuart Hellingsworth. This article was first published in issue 4 of Turnstile Blues.

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I dare say that you’ve heard of Jesus Navas, the Spanish winger at Manchester City. You’ll have certainly heard of Gianluigi Buffon; one of the best keepers to grace the game. What do these two players have in common? Yes, they’re both better footballers than me! But it’s actually more than that; both have battled mental illness.

Navas has suffered from anxiety to the extent that reportedly he had to reject big moves earlier in his career. Buffon has suffered from bouts of depression and required the support of a psychologist.

Depression is sweeping through football. A survey of professional footballers by Four Four Two magazine showed that 78% of them agreed that depression is a problem for footballers. Stan Collymore, and Darren Eadie have talked openly about their battles with depression. Clarke Carlisle, Lee Hendrie and former Hull hard man, Dean Windass, attempted suicide. Paul Gascoigne’s mental health issues are all too well documented. Sadly, it took the lives of Gary Speed and Robert Enke.

Enke was a top goalkeeper winning eight caps for Germany and part of the Euro 2008 squad. His clubs included Barcelona and Benfica, but found much of his success at Hannover 96. Here he became the club captain and was voted the best goal keeper award in 2008/09 season. Two days after a 2-2 draw with Hamburg, Enke kissed his baby daughter and drove off to the train station where he took his own life.

Former ITFC captain, Jason De Vos is one who has encountered players with mental health issues. When asked about the support that such players received, he commented “Football is as vicious a working environment as can be imagined. It really is ‘survival of the fittest’.” But why is this? I have no doubt that De Vos would have been supportive to those concerned, but in this day and age, surely all should be? We don’t judge those with cancer; we support them. So why not mental illness?

Is it because it’s something that ‘other people’ get? Or that we know very few people have such issues? The latter might be true as many of us don’t realise that a friend, a relative, a work colleague, or a famous cricketer is suffering.

The statistics show that mental health problems are far more common than most realise. 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year. 1 in 10 young people will experience a mental health problem.

It’s a common belief that people with mental illness aren’t able to work, but, in fact, we probably all work with someone experiencing a mental health problem. Another myth is that people with mental health illnesses are violent and unpredictable. The reality is that people with a mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violence.

9 out of 10 people with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination. Nearly three in four young people fear the reactions of friends when they talk about their mental health problems.

In other words, statistically, of the 22 or more footballers that you’ll see at Portman Road today, five are likely to have or develop some sort of mental illness this year. I hope that all clubs have set up a system to nurture players to assist with the prevention and when they are troubled. Football clubs have a duty of care to their players. A coroner criticised one premiership team for lack of support to a former youth player who later ended his life. This is particularly poignant as three young male suicides occur on average every day in the UK, according to the British charity, The Campaign Against Living Miserably. Suicide is the biggest killer of young men. Following Gary Speed’s suicide, the PFA decided to send advice to 50,000 players. They have also a rather good webiste, however an awful lot more remains to be done.

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Mental illness can affect people of all ages and walks of life as it can be triggered by physical, social, environmental or/and genetic factors. Depression affects anyone of any age (Rethink 2013).

Statistically there will be a few thousand people in the stands today with a form of mental illness. Probably a number sitting on your row. It’s something that needs acceptance in life rather than a dismissing attitude. Whether we know it or not, a friend, work colleague, lover or family member will have some sort of mental illness. Or maybe you have such problems. Something so many people find really hard to talk about.

With that in mind, the following links may be of help, whether for you personally or someone you know. Remind yourself that you or they have something in common with (among others) Gianluigi Buffon, Winston Churchill and Kylie.

Rethink.org | mind.org.uk | time-to-change.org.uk | samaritans.org


Ched Evans: some thoughts on his possible return to professional football

09/10/2014

We understand that Ched Evans, who was jailed for rape in April 2012, may be released as soon as this Saturday. We are disappointed that the Chief Executive of the PFA, Gordon Taylor, has made a public statement supporting Evans’ return to professional football. Rob Freeman wrote this article for issue 6 of our printed fanzine which will be published on 18 October 2014, but he’s kindly allowed us to post it here first.

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Image available under Creative Commons © faungg (Flickr)

 

Sometime this month around the publication of the next issue of the Turnstile Blues fanzine, Ched Evans is due for parole, after being jailed in 2012 after being found guilty of raping a woman in a Premier Inn in Rhyl. Fans of many clubs – including Ipswich – have taken to social media to proclaim Evans’s innocence. Many have taken their views on the case exclusively from two sources – one, being the fact that Clayton McDonald was found not guilty, while Evans was found guilty, the other being the official website set up by his family and friends in order to proclaim his innocence.

In the first instance, the reason why one man was found not guilty, and the second man found guilty was because the victim was alone with McDonald for long enough for her to have given consent, yet Evans never spoke to the victim until after she was at the hotel, after the point at which the hotel porter had stated at the trial she was intoxicated. The Crown Prosecution Service website refers to consent as: “In R v Bree [2007] EWCA 256, the Court of Appeal explored the issue of capacity and consent, stating that, if, through drink, or for any other reason, a complainant had temporarily lost her capacity to choose whether to have sexual intercourse, she was not consenting, and subject to the defendant’s state of mind, if intercourse took place, that would be rape.” McDonald and Evans were separated, at which point McDonald and the victim took a taxi to the hotel. As the victim’s condition is unknown at time when she is alone with McDonald (but evidence given at the trial such as text messages sent around this time, suggests she had a fairly normal level of coherence), there is time for her consent, and therefore, enough doubt for a jury to find McDonald not guilty. As there is a witness to her condition deteriorating prior to the first time she speaks to Evans (they had met earlier in the evening but not spoken), and Evans confirmed at the trial that he had sex with the victim, the jury had little option but to find him guilty.

The second source of information – some would say misinformation – is the Evans website. The website itself is a classic example of rape culture and victim blaming. References to social media comments made five months after the rape suggesting that she was going to “win big”, and criticisms of rape charities (“They should not allow Cheds (sic) return to his chosen profession become a distraction from the good work they do”). There are references to her behaviour in order to make her sound fully coherent, while at the same time highlighting behaviour that some would find unsavoury. The victim’s behaviour shows signs similar to that of someone who has been spiked (going from coherence to appearing intoxicated in a short amount of time, and the subsequent inability to remember what had happened while appearing intoxicated), but as most drugs used to spike drinks disappear relatively quickly from the system, nothing was found in her system, when she was tested the next day. That said, as Evans had no opportunity to speak to the victim, he had no opportunity to spike her drink. If Evans is released, the question of whether he should be re-employed by Sheffield United – or another club – has been raised, with many arguments being raised in favour and against.

Many have an unease with someone convicted of such a crime shouldn’t have the ability to earn thousands of pounds a week on release – these arguments were also put forward when Marlon King (sexual assault and assault), Lee Hughes and Luke McCormick (death by dangerous driving) were released from prison after committing their respective crimes.

The main argument for, is that as he has paid his debt to society. After all, if a factory worker was to be released, we would want them to return to their career, as part of their rehabilitation, and re-integration into society. However, if Evans is released in October 2014, he won’t have repaid his debt to society – he will instead be serving the second half of his sentence on licence.

As the website proclaiming Evans’ innocence says: “Any individual convicted of a criminal offence should be allowed to return to their profession as part of their rehabilitation, with the exception of certain circumstances where they pose a risk to others”. It is fair to say that an unrepentant convicted rapist poses a risk to women just by being free in the first place, and when you consider that footballers are also expected to perform work within the community – especially those footballers who are in need of rehabilitation. However, Evans’s supporters feel he should resume his career where he left off, to the point of criticising the charity Rape Crisis for questioning whether an unrepentant convicted rapist should return to a highly paid high-profile career. However, this is part of Rape Crisis’s remit. The vast majority of rape victims suffer with flashbacks, and these are often triggered by references in the media to rape, and references to Evans continuing a high-profile career is going to see him referred to as a convicted rapist, and even if he isn’t the mention of his name may trigger a traumatic memory in a rape victim. And it is for those reasons, rather than how much money he may or may not earn that makes me believe that he should not be allowed to return to football.

For many, the question isn’t whether Evans should be re-employed by Sheffield United, or any other club. While Evans continues to deny his guilt, many would argue that he should not be released on parole at all. There are suggestions that, because he still maintains his innocence (he made a third submission for an appeal in July this year), he may not be released – other people in this situation (most notably, the Birmingham Six) have been refused parole because a condition of parole is that you must admit your guilt before you can be released. After all, in the eyes of the law, you cannot be rehabilitated if you are unrepentant. When dealing with offences such as rape, the Sexual Offenders Treatment Programme requires the prisoners concerned to give a full and frank account of their crime – although this programme doesn’t apply to prisoners going through the appeal process. Majority owner and former chairman of Blackpool FC, Owen Oyston had parole refused while he served a sentence for rape because he refused to admit his guilt. In his case, he appealed to the High Court, which ruled that the Parole Board had ruled unlawfully in his case, however other parole cases have continued to be refused for the same reason.

 


Book review: The A-Z of Football Hates

06/10/2014

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I was tempted to begin this review of The A-Z of Football Hates by Richard Foster (Amberley, 2014) by stating that books of alphabetical lists would come near to the top of my own inventory of “hates,” but I was quickly won over by the author’s introduction, particularly his description of the Chester fan, Steve, who hates watching home matches, an interesting – if slightly problematic – kind of cross for a football supporter to bear.

The abominations that have been chosen by Richard Foster, from an original long list of 87, are probably shared by the majority of fans: agents, corporate hospitality, diving, naming rights, (Mexican) waves, and xenophobia would all be on my personal list should I ever compile one. I would have included “banter,” though, which in my opinion is one of the worst aspects of the modern game of all. Of course, the whole point of a book like this is that there will be as much to disagree with as there is to confirm one’s own prejudices. That’s all part of the fun – and the book is fun. It’s written with a light touch that shrugs off some of its strengths, such as the quality of the writing and research. I learned quite a few things from reading it – from snippets about the early history of agents to the rather pleasing fact that the first footballer in the English game to wear tights was a Leicester City player in 1979.

It’s a book that seems intended, above all, to provoke debate and discussion and I’m pleased to say that I found much to disagree with in it, as I’m sure everyone else who reads it will. Although I can quite believe that players’ PR advisers might encourage them to flourish their children in front of the cameras for all kinds of dubious reasons, I don’t feel as cynical about children and football as the author does. I love to see footballers celebrating with their families when they’ve won trophies and I particularly like to see my own team parade their little ones around Portman Road at the end of the season. Foster finds it schmaltzy but I think that some footballers might actually like their own kids enough to want to share the pleasure of their best moments in football with them. On the other hand, I agree with him that FIFA’s insistence on players each holding hands with a mascot when walking on to the pitch for an international is execrable.

I’m not sure, either, about his description of his ideal club owner: “rich, anonymous and kind-hearted. Just imagine a wealthy philanthropist who was publicity shy… ” I have a particular figure in mind, of course, and I’m in no doubt that a club owner should not be able to hide from the people whose club he or she is supposed to be looking after. I suppose a book that is essentially against things doesn’t have to put the world to rights, but it would have been good if the piece about Ownership had made at least a passing reference to what fans are doing for themselves at clubs like Exeter, FCUM, AFC Wimbledon and Portsmouth.

He devotes an entire “hate” to John Westwood of Pompey and his bell, a decision with which I can wholeheartedly concur. If there’s ever a follow-up edition, I can also recommend that the person who used to play a musical air horn at Portman Road repetitively in the 1970s should receive similar recognition. That horn still blights Ipswich Town DVDs to this day.

There are some contradictions. The author admits “I cried again twenty years on from those first tears” when England were knocked out of the world cup in 1990, despite claiming “Crying” and open displays of masculine emotion to be one of his pet hates. Perhaps – like the Player Queen in Hamlet – Richard Foster protests too much. In fact, I suspect him of really enjoying many of the things he claims to hate. He is clearly enjoying himself far too much in the section on Haircuts – and indeed, which football fan has not taken pleasure in the maniacally coiffeured player? Although I was sad not to find either of my personal favourites, Sue Smith and Taribo West, in the book there are plenty of other examples.

I was afraid that this book might be a football version of Grumpy Old Men but it would be better described by the popular Twitter hashtag: “Against Modern Football.” Most of the things that Richard Foster hates have come into the game in the post-Sky TV era. Television coverage, enormous advertising revenue and vast wealth have altered the game, and in turn have created huge distinctions between clubs with the Premier League having the lion’s share of the spoils in this country. These are the things that are at the root of almost all of the “hates,” whether they are TV directors homing in on the faces of crying fans or goal celebrations designed especially for the cameras.

A pleasing aspect of the book is the contributions of both supporters and former footballers. I particularly enjoyed Pat Nevin, who with typical originality and intelligence decided that what he hates the most is hatred. I think most people would agree. For all the controversy about things like the music played over stadia PA systems or “French football shorts,” this is the worst thing about football and changing things for the better is – unlike most of the other execrations listed in the book – in the hands of the fans themselves. The section on Qatar 2022 is excellent and it conveys some important issues about FIFA’s hypocrisy in the face of human rights abuses. Human rights and global corporatism may not fit all that well into a book that is essentially about mocking the wearing of yellow boots or “plastic fans” but without the serious issues, it would merely be enjoyably trivial. It’s more than that and all the better for it.

The author concludes by saying that it hopes it will enable its readers to release some “pent-up emotions.” I’m not sure about that. For me, watching a football match itself is the most cathartic thing of all. However, if The A-Z of Football Hates was intended to be entertaining and thought-provoking, it has certainly succeeded very well.

Susan Gardiner

 

 


Non-league Day on 6th September 2014

03/09/2014

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Gavin Barber would like you to think about going to watch some non-league football on Saturday – and we at Turnstile Blues agree.

This Saturday, 6th September, is Non-League Day. The idea is simple: the teams in the top two divisions aren’t playing, so if you’d normally be watching your team play in the Premier League or Championship, go to a local Non-League ground instead.

Or, just go to a game at a local Non-League ground because, well, because it’s fun.

The point of Non-League Day is not to be “worthy” or touristy, or even particularly serious. It’s about enjoyment: the simple pleasure of watching a football match because you want to watch a football match, not because it has a multi-million pound outcome riding on it. The pleasure of discovering a ground that you’ve never been to before – chances are it’ll have more trees than corporate hospitality tents. The pleasure of being able to have a beer while watching the game, and of hearing some new songs being sung.

There’s a serious side to it – grassroots football has massive social benefits: it enables people to participate and play and socialise, and provides community cohesion in these difficult times. So, it needs your support.

But that doesn’t mean that you have to wear your Guardian Columnist face on Non-League Day. Just turn up and enjoy it. Chances are, you’ll want to come back.

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You can find a non-league fixture near to you by using the “Find A Match” function on the Non-League Day website. Whitton United and Woodbridge Town, for example, are both at home. Or if you fancy a Ryman League game you could head for Leiston United. And there’s some Conference North (yes, Conference North – I don’t make the rules up) action on the coast at Lowestoft Town.

Alternatively, download the Non-League Fixture Finder for your smartphone and let it work its location-based magic.

logoPhil Porter explains more about his Nonleague Fixture Finder app:
I’ve been attending nonleague football matches pretty regularly for a few years now. Last December during a period of wet weather a number of matches for my club – Cambridge City – were postponed and I started the hunt for other matches to attend.This was a more laborious process than it should have been. I couldn’t easily find a suitable website with all the nonleague fixtures displayed – and the official websites of the various nonleagues are hard to navigate and entirely separate. Further, none of them take any notice of my location to inform me what matches are close to me. It struck me that an iPhone app (I have an iPhone) could have taken the list of fixtures and displayed them in distance order from me. Surely someone had written one? No. They hadn’t. I’m not blessed with ideas that could be turned into interesting apps, but this one seemed promising. I’m technical enough to figure out how to write one. I’d also be an active user of the app, so I’d be able to tune it to show me exactly what I wanted and so I’d have a better idea of what should be in it than most other people. Finally the nonleague fixtures aren’t copyright, so I’d be able to create this app without the need to license them from the various leagues (an unofficial Football League app couldn’t be created for this reason). I’d be able to write an app (for a nerd like myself this seemed quite cool) and people may actually like having it! So I did.

It is in the Apple store now (http://www.tinyurl.com/NLFF-app).

It contains the fixtures for the top 4 steps (that’s 12 different leagues) of the nonleague pyramid, and sorts them by distance from where the user is. The fixtures can be displayed in a list or on a map and you can filter them by nonleague level and how far you want to travel.

A club directory is also provided showing complete fixture lists, ticket prices, address and a website link for each of the clubs in those 12 divisions.

 


Sir Alf Ramsey’s last resting place

02/07/2014

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Today I visited cremation plot OC 194 in the old Ipswich cemetery. This is where the ashes of Sir Alf Ramsey are buried. I had heard from someone that he had never seen any flowers there and so I decided to take him a few from my garden. Sadly, the white flowers have all gone over and so I had to take pink and blue blooms. As it’s the World Cup finals at the moment, I wanted to thank the man who built the England team that won the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966, the most successful national manager of all time, who was also the man who transformed my team, Ipswich Town, from a provincial club to a renowned side that won the English football league championship in 1961/2. In fact, when I eventually found his plot, there were some flowers there, but it was good to be able to leave something on behalf of Turnstile Blues. To find his last resting place to be as modest and humble as the man was in life was very moving. Thank you, Sir Alf Ramsey, 1920-1999.

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Watching football is not a crime

27/06/2014

39_fans1992Police searching fans outside PR in 1992. Photograph by David Jameson.

By Susan Gardiner, who would like to make it clear that she hasn’t asked the rest of the Turnstile Blues group what they think.

I’ve had two experiences of serious violence which involved football supporters. Neither was anything to do with Ipswich Town and both were a very long time ago, in the bad old days when football supporters were given a certain notoriety by the actions of a minority who were up for a fight. One was when I was a very small child and my mother and I were trapped in an underpass near Molineux with Wolves fans coming one way and Stoke City supporters coming straight towards them from the other direction. I was terrified and had to press myself against the rather insalubrious subway walls as they met and started to punch the living daylights out of one another, oblivious to my existence.The second time was as a teenager in North London, waiting for a bus at Finsbury Park, a bus that was unfortunately full of Spurs fans who, spotting some Arsenal supporters, smashed every single window in the double-decker, indiscriminately showering us all with broken glass. That was pretty scary too.

I wasn’t at the infamous Millwall game, or at Elland Road when Leeds fans behaved disgracefully and attacked Town fans. My only experience of trouble in Ipswich was when there was a fight in Princes Street after we thrashed an already-promoted Portsmouth. When I reached the station, I had the privilege of having 2p coins thrown at me by Pompey fans who were presumably trying to make some kind of point about us having been in administration. Oh the irony.

I write these things to demonstrate that I’m not completely without direct experience of violence, nor unconcerned by it. I have also, unfortunately, seen violence in other contexts: a fully-fledged riot in the academic library that I worked in (it’s a long story) and I was present when an 19-year-old student (a rugby fan, as it happens) was stabbed to death at a disco. As far as I know, the authorities have never imposed draconian measures on indie discos.

This may seem like a slightly OTT response to the announcement that the police – yet again – want to move our Derby game against Norwich City from Saturday, 23 August to the following day. I’m not going to be very badly inconvenienced by this personally. I live close to Ipswich and even though I’ll have to catch a rail replacement bus service into town, and not be able to have a civilized lunch at a civilized hour with my friends, my day won’t be entirely ruined. However, the alteration is going to make it difficult for people who have to travel some distance.

The justification for making the change and for the early start of 12 noon is to avoid any potential trouble between opposing groups of supporters. Having travelled to very nearly every home match at PR for thirteen years on the Norwich-Ipswich train, I can’t say I’ve ever experienced any trouble – or even much hostility. There’s been a bit of muttering, occasionally the word “scum” has been uttered (on both sides), but nobody died.

Let’s look at some facts: the most recent Home Office figures – full details can be found here – for banning orders, by club, show that in 2012/3 Norwich supporters received 10 as compared to Arsenal (59), Chelsea (110) and Cardiff City (121). In the Championship, only 6 of our fans received banning orders. Only three clubs had fewer: Reading (5), Watford (4) and Yeovil (1). Similarly, arrest figures (for 2012/3) show Norwich among the best behaved, with only 12 arrests and Town were Champions – well, I’m taking it as a win! Only four Town fans were arrested in that season (all at away matches), well below Blackpool’s 11. Of the four, only one was for “violent disorder,” another for “public disorder” and the other two were for “alcohol offences.”

I’m really proud of these statistics, and yet, instead of being rewarded for having such top fans, it seems that the local police, with the agreement of ITFC, are going to continue to regard us all as potential criminals. There is no reason, in my view, that this game cannot be held at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon with normal levels of policing.

It’s not just having the game moved. When I used to come down from Norwich, we were often corralled, along with Norwich fans, and led down to Portman Road by the police. I ended up taking the earliest possible train to try to avoid this. I’ve never been able to understand why, having never been as much as cautioned by the police in my life, I should be treated as a criminal, merely for wanting to watch my team.

The arguments about an earlier kick off time being a way of reducing alcohol consumption don’t stack up either. The last time I travelled to a match on the train from Lowestoft, yellow and blue shirts all together in the same carriage, several supporters were drinking from concealed litre bottles of vodka. It was a train that reached Ipswich at about 10.30am.

Restrictions on alcohol consumption only appear to apply to football supporters. If you’ve been to a Test match, you’ll be aware that many spectators do not confine themselves to consuming fizzy lemonade. I once saw someone being carried IN to Trent Bridge at 11 o’clock in the morning (there’d been rain). My experience of obnoxious behaviour by cricket fans has been far worse but I’ve never come across any organized policing strategy at a cricket match.

There were a total of 34 arrests during Royal Ascot this year, according to one report, although the BBC reported 29, as an improvement on the previous year when there were 50. Once again, I don’t imagine that Her Majesty and her chums will be subjected to any restrictions on how they can travel to and from the race course.

So why are football supporters treated differently from those attending other events? It’s an authoritarian society that treats innocent people as if they need to be controlled. Perhaps the police lack the staff levels or ITFC don’t want to pay for the policing (they didn’t last time we played Cardiff City, with their highest number of banning orders, which doesn’t strike me as very logical, to be honest), but it’s still not a justification for assuming the worst about what are, on the whole, a very well-behaved and good-natured group of people. I’m all for the police dealing with people who have committed an offence or have form – but this is not yet the society depicted in the film Minority Report where people are arrested and punished for “PreCrime.”

A final concern. There is a possibility that the police might one day impose what is known as a “Bubble” on travelling supporters. This means that fans are only allowed to travel to an away game on designated transport, normally club coaches, from specified pick up points and bussed straight to the ground. This happened a couple of years ago to that notorious firm Hull City AFC, when they played Huddersfield Town. It’s yet to happen to Chelsea fans, I believe. An attempt to impose one when Sunderland played Newcastle last year failed when both clubs refused to back the idea.

It’s clear that many Town fans don’t feel that this is such an important issue. It’s just moving a game to the next day, after all. Except that I don’t believe it is. It’s an authoritarian approach to managing largely law-abiding crowds. It’s ill thought out and quite frankly, lazy. Lazy in its assumptions about football supporters, lazy in its approach to dealing with football supporters and not tackling the problem of genuine offenders, lazy in the lack of consultation of supporters.

Watching football is not a crime.

n designated transport, usually club coaches, from specific pick up points. – See more at: http://www.fsf.org.uk/latest-news/view/fans-and-players-unite-against-bubble-match#sthash.b8FhOETP.dpuf
n designated transport, usually club coaches, from specific pick up points. – See more at: http://www.fsf.org.uk/latest-news/view/fans-and-players-unite-against-bubble-match#sthash.b8FhOETP.dpuf
n designated transport, usually club coaches, from specific pick up points. – See more at: http://www.fsf.org.uk/latest-news/view/fans-and-players-unite-against-bubble-match#sthash.b8FhOETP.dpuf


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