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18-01-2007

The Stirrer has been reporting over the last week on Wolves decision to ban visiting Cardiff supporters on Saturday. Villafan Dave Woodhall will be joining the protests at 9 on Saturday in the piazza by St Peters Square in Wolverhampton.

Wolves are playing Cardiff on Saturday, and Cardiff supporters are banned from attending. In protest at this decision, Cardiff supporters club are organising a demonstration in Wolverhampton city centre, which the local police have insisted can only take place between 9am and 10.30 on the morning of the game.

I intend to be there and I really hope that this meeting is a massive success, because punishing guilty and innocent alike is a draconian measure that only ever seems to happen to football supporters. If there have been problems with this fixture in the past, appropriate steps can be taken to prevent a repeat. Banning orders can be imposed, kick-off times altered and the number of police officers in attendance increased.

To me, the most annoying thing about the whole incident has been the number of football supporters saying that the ban is right and that Cardiff fans shouldn't be allowed to complain. One Wolves fan even said that he wouldn't be surprised to see a murder taken place during the demonstration, because hooligans from around the country will turn up and the Cardiff supporters intending to watch the match by airship will be a target for snipers. This ignores the fact that Fans United protests take place regularly, when supporters from many clubs join in a show of unity to prove that, underneath our club loyalties, we're all the same.

Unfortunately, far too many supporters show their insularity by having some strange idea that while their own club and its fans are fine, everyone else is somehow sub-human. Whether it's a Villa supporter complaining that the bloke two rows in front is a Manchester United fan, or an Albion supporter moaning that Wolves fans should be banned from the Hawthorns, these people show a funny sense of priorities. It's about time we realised that we have more in common with those in the away end than with anyone else.

That Wolves supporter who said Cardiff should be banned might find one day that it's him who's prevented from attending an away game. The Blues supporters who laughed when Villa were charged £45 a ticket at St Andrews shouldn't have been surprised when that was the amount they were charged the following season. Villa supporters saying that Portsmouth fans having to set out at the crack of dawn for a 12.45 kick-off at Villa Park was only fair because they'd had the same journey themselves the year before should have stopped to ask why either set of fans had to undergo such an ordeal.

Football people work within their own circle at almost all levels. Players stick together, managers work with each other, so do directors and senior staff. They all present a united front to preserve their own interests. The only people who don't are the supporters. Too many football supporters are too eager to demonise anyone who supports another club.

There are many things that supporters complain about. Kick-off times, prices, away fan bans. If we realised that another team's supporters are different, not inferior - and usually not that different to us - we might be able to do something about them.

Actions such as banning Cardiff fans will only serve to drive a wedge between all football supporters, however well-behaved, and the authorities. As in the rest of society, the gap should be between the lawbreakers and the innocent.
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