Those chants don’t seem so funny now – a depressing day for Yeovil fans.

Yesterday’s was the first Saturday afternoon I’ve spent at home since March. I had thought to go to Haringey to watch Yeovil against Haringey in the preliminary round of the FA Cup but thought against it as my son is away at College and my partner has toothache and could do with my company.

We are an apolitical household, my partner and I have radically different views on Brexit and so while we were aware of developments, I did not go marching.

Instead, we watched the racing and I watched the twitter feed. After a poor first half we got a penalty and I awaited with impatience the result. After a lengthy delay, we scored. It was to be the last good news I was to hear about that game.

Shortly afterwards, the club feed gave the first bad news

The detail came from following the #YTFC. Two bottles had been thrown onto the pitch, the goal keeper had been spat at, obscenities had been thrown and there was talk of rascist chants directed at the Borough goalkeeper.

After a delay, the match was announced to be abandoned and the players came back on the pitch

Later that evening the Borough manager made a statement explaining why he took his players off the pitch.

Talking to Radio 5 he said not just the goalkeeper but his number 6 were subject to racial abuse and that the team were in no state to play the rest of the game.

Yeovil Town issued a club statement.  The Avon and Somerset police have called for video evidence.

The impact on Yeovil supporters has been shock and deep shame that the traditions of a family club with fans who pride themselves on their behaviour will be tarnished by this.

Last week, immediately after a home match, we’d had another horrible shock when we learned that one of our great fans, Martin Baker, had been found dead in his flat, we now know he died of a massive heart attack. Martin had run the unofficial club news site “Ciderspace”.  Martin grew up in Shaftesbury and knew my family well, but he knew everyone well – this match had been dedicated to him and the non league football paper had written this tribute to Martin. 

Like all Yeovil fans I am upset for the club , players and true fans – of whom Martin was as true as any. Yeovil is a small community. It is not a greatly loved place, it has many problems – high teenage pregnancies , low levels of ethnic diversity and average incomes well below the national average. The football club had been a great source of pride for generations. In 2013 it had been promoted to the Championship and the following season Leicester, Burnley and other top flight clubs visited Huish Park to play league fixtures.

Yeovil have since fallen into National League Division one. Yeovil Fans have stuck by the club and this season have seen an upturn in fortunes under a new manager and with new owners. We have a brilliant woman’s team and a growing youth set-up.


Recent problems

Despite this resurgence, Yeovil has been in the news for the wrong reasons lately. A few weeks ago in what was jokingly called “Ball-boy gate”, one of the ball-boys got sent off by the ref in a home game for wasting time. The club marched all the ball boys off in solidarity and the ref was left to get the ball out of the stands himself – later in the game.

This seemed like innocent fun at the time but there were already more sinister tones. Though I didn’t hear it – being on the other side of the ground, Bromley fans suggested that some of our fans were less than sympathetic when the Bromley goalkeeper got injured. There were further rumours of bad behaviour at an away game at Hartlepool and now this.

I feel responsible for our club , though I don’t go to many matches. I suspect that all the more loyal fans feel responsible for the behaviour of their fellow fans. We all feel guilty that this bad thing has been visited on Haringey Borough by us. Indeed our most famous fan, Pat Custard, singled out Haringey Borough for its hospitality, this was their day – more than ours, they are in a lower league and this was their big game.

I was pleased to see our manager’s arms around Borough’s goalkeeper and the two teams mixing without rancour after the incidents.

Screenshot 2019-10-20 at 18.49.01.png

Yeovil Town apologises and I put my apology to what has happened. And of course what has been alleged to have happened has national resonance as it occurred in the same week as our national team got abuse in Bulgaria.

Our fans will now be put in special measures. When we go to any game, we will  be barracked by opposition fans for what happened yesterday. We will not be able to wear our scarves and shirts with the pride we once did. Obviously we all want the hooligans to be banged to rights but we shouldn’t isolate them as the sole problem. In as much as we  let this happen  no-one can claim to be blameless.

And our own fans have made it very clear they have every sympathy for the Haringey players

But we need to see balance in reporting and await the results of the various inquiries, before judgement on the club is delivered. I found this article provided that balance at this early stage.

I understand that several of our fans met with their Borough counterparts after the game and that all was well between them

 

Our team itself is very diverse, and players want to come to Yeovil because we have a reputation for treating people as people. Here’s the forward line of our squad.

Screenshot 2019-10-20 at 08.15.59.png

The behaviour of the few has dishonoured  the memory of Martin and the heritage of the club which will now be remembered for the wrong things. Many will argue that this is a massive over-reaction resulting from social media, whatever the findings of the police inquiry the damage has been done.

Just like pension scamming, a few rotten apples pollute  the whole barrel. There is no way that Yeovil can undo what is done – if found guilty of hate crimes and of bottle throwing, the  culprits  must be banned and we all must bear their shame.

If we are found complicit in racism , Yeovil should voluntarily resign from the FA Cup  and we should adopt Haringey Borough as our team for the rest of their time in the tournament. But I say “if” as it’s still far from clear what actually did occur.

We can’t keep hate-chanting; even calling the keeper a fat bastard (which it seems we were doing) isn’t funny – it’s rubbish behaviour.  Any kind of bottle throwing and spitting is football violence. Things will not get better until we stop thinking this stuff – even done by others – is funny.

I have stood in Thatchers when  gypsy chants have been sung, I’ve hear the Adams Family song, the abuse of northern fans, even the chants against Weymouth. I’ve heard homophobia on our terraces in Brighton away matches . All this seemed innocent fun at the time – it doesn’t now.


Appendix; post of Dave Coates on the @RedmenTV twitter feed

Excuse the long post, but did anyone see the tweet from TheRedMenTV about our current situation? If not, take a look at my retweet from tonight (Tuesday).

Basically, the snippet of a wider debate they posted calls for us to be chucked out of the FA Cup.

Below a message I sent them in response….

Good evening,

I just viewed your recent @TheRedmenTV Twitter post where your host calls for Yeovil Town to be kicked out of the FA Cup following the allegations of racism made against a supporter at Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Haringey Borough.

I will begin by saying I recognise these snippets posted on social media are there to get a reaction from people and make people watching the full video; I did and I recognise there was a bit of debate about the rights and wrongs of this what was being proposed.

However, as a Yeovil Town supporter who attended the match on Saturday I want to tell you about my experience before, during and after the incident and what comments like your ‘snippet’ have contributed to.

Having left my home in Lancashire at 7.15am on Saturday to get to Haringey, I was one of the first to arrive at the ground and visited the club bar where I was actually greeted by the Haringey chairman.

He expressed his hope that Yeovil would bring more supporters to give his club a well-deserved pay day, we spoke, wished each other well and my conversations and those of other Yeovil fans with staff and supporters of Haringey was nothing but friendly and good spirited.

The match itself was fairly uneventful until the 63rd minute when a penalty was awarded in Yeovil Town’s favour and there was, what appeared from where I was standing, to be an exchange of words with Haringey keeper, Valery Douglas Pajetat.

The keeper squirted water towards fans behind the goal and the situation quickly got out of hand, a plastic bottle was thrown on to the pitch and it quickly became apparent things had escalated.

At this point, both myself and more than 20 Yeovil fans around me immediately confronted our own ‘fans’ calling for whoever had thrown the bottle (this was as much as we knew at this point) to be ejected from the ground and urging stewards to act to do this.

The situation appeared to settle and the keeper faced the penalty which was scored, at which point another bottle was thrown on the pitch, and further words were exchanged which led to the Haringey team walking off, followed soon after by the players of Yeovil Town.

By the time the penalty was scored, there were stewards wearing body cameras dealing with the perpetrators involved in the verbal exchanges, and would have picked up anything said at this time – useful evidence in an investigation, I would imagine.

You have obviously read the headlines since then, the vast majority of which has acted as judge, jury and executioner before either a police or FA investigation had begun (let alone been concluded) and judged Yeovil Town supporters as ‘racist’.

My evidence of this? Supporters being abused as they left the ground, including insults being hurled at buses filled with people who applauded the announcement that the game would not continue, and subsequently hearing from countless fellow supporters that they have received messages and had comments about their club’s ‘racist supporters’ over the weekend and during the week that followed.

I experienced this myself from people and it all came before any type of investigation had been completed.

I now know people who have supported Yeovil Town for generations who are afraid to attend future matches for fear of being the subject of further abuse for being ‘racist fans’ and this has been driven by a rush to judgement of so many parts of the media which led to commentary like that you chose to post.

I now have genuine concerns my friends could be targeted for retribution when attending the re-arranged fixture next Tuesday night. How can it be right that people are made to feel like that? If Yeovil supporters are abused, what role will posts like yours have played in this?

You will have read that two people have been arrested on the allegations of racially aggravated common assault and (as I send this message) no charges have been made public against them; and yet you published a statement which has reached a judgement already.

If these people are found guilty of the allegations against them on the basis of evidence, you will not find a single Yeovil Town supporter who will disagree that they should receive bans and criminal charges brought against them.

But what about the stain on the name of thousands of other innocent people who did nothing more than support the same team as them? What about the reputation of a club with no history of any type of crowd trouble, least of all racist behaviour? I am afraid that statements like that you have made have left both of these things tarnished beyond repair.

If ever there was a supporter of a football club who understood the concept of trial by media and the need to look beyond the headlines, I would have thought it would be Liverpool.

Because one idiot threw someone in a fountain in Barcelona, are all Liverpool fans in agreement this type of behaviour is acceptable? Of course not, it is one idiot. The response of Yeovil supporters at the game and subsequently makes me quite sure there are none amongst us who believe racism has any place in our society, let alone football.

If there was a supporter of a football club who understood the idea of legal process and the concept of innocent until proven guilty, I would have thought it would have been Liverpool.

For this reason, I felt compelled to contact you to convey my deep disappointment at how you, like so many other parts of the media, have tarnished the good name of a club with no history of this type of behaviour, contributed to a situation where people feel afraid to attend a football match, and all before an investigation has run its course.

I hope you take this message in the spirit it is intended, from one football lover to another.

 

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen, Director of First Actuarial, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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1 Response to Those chants don’t seem so funny now – a depressing day for Yeovil fans.

  1. My sympathies, Henry.

    Not sure I agree that Yeovil have to withdraw, although the FA may take the decision out of your own hands. A replay with no tickets for Yeovil fans would be my view.

    I’m also worried about inconsistency between players staying on or walking off, and managers or even fans using this to get a result overturned. I first remember Celtic fans trying to stop a Scottish Cup final they were losing to St Mirren in 1962 and then Rangers fans trying to stop a UEFA Fairs Cup semi final second leg they were losing at Newcastle in 1969. On both occasions the police and the referee made the right decision to resume.

    But the decision to abandon Scotland-Austria in 1963 by an English referee was done to protect players from injuring each other in that particular stramash.

    Coming up to date, I have private views on what happened in Sofia last week, views which I was happy to discuss with anyone who was interested at the PLSA in Manchester. Suffice it to say: contributory negligence, anyone?

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